Graduate student service learning in medically underserved communities
Journal of Nursing Education and Practice
This qualitative analysis aimed to ascertain the impact of community-oriented service learning experiences on community engagement of nurse practitioner students through the analysis of written student experience reflections. The UCSF Elev8 Healthy Students & Families project marked the beginning of an ongoing interprofessional academic-practice partnership in which health science graduate students have been assigned to service learning projects in school based health centers located in
... located in medically underserved neighborhoods. Methods: Semi-structured self-reflections were collected from nurse practitioner and dental students between 2011 and 2015. Sixty graduate students provided written reflections before, during and after their service learning experiences. Dimensional analysis, a form of grounded theory, was employed as the primary analytic strategy. Results: Several major processes were identified, including interprofessional learning and communication development. Tangible experiences with the social determinants of health proved centrally important to effective learning. Important conditions impacting the student experience were whether or not students were from or had experience in underserved communities and how they perceived the orientation/preparation. Conclusions: This project provided valuable opportunities for growth as clinicians, including familiarization with community engagement, communication skills, interprofessional opportunities, and role modeling possible career pathways for community youth. Academic institutions partnering with community health sites for service learning should integrate thoughtful orientation to sites and community health topics. Finally, creating a space to discuss how a student's own personal background impacts their experiences is critical and may serve to enrich the opportunity for all students involved.