Background: Extramuralisation in healthcare has influenced medical and nursing curricula internationally with the incorporation of themes related to primary/ community care. Despite this, students do not easily change their career preferences. The hospital is still favourite, leading to labour market shortages in extramural care. This study investigates how baccalaureate nursing students' perceptions of community care and placement preferences develop over time in a more 'community-care-oriented' curriculum, to gain insights on which curriculum elements potentially influence career choices.
Methods: A nursing student cohort of a University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands (n = 273) underwent a new four-year curriculum containing extended elements of community care. The primary outcome was assessed with the Scale on Community Care Perceptions (SCOPE). Data were collected each year of study. Descriptive statistics were used to investigate students' placement preferences and perceptions, and linear mixed model techniques (LMMs) for measuring how students' perceptions develop over time. Patterns of placement preferences at individual level were visualised.
Results: Students' perceptions of community care, as measured with SCOPE, show a slight decrease between year 1 and 4, while items mutually differ substantially. In contrast, the preference of community care for a placement increases from 2.6% in year 1 tot 8.2% in year 4. The hospital is favourite in year 1 (79.8%), and remains most popular. At individual level, students often change placement preferences, although a preference for the hospital is more consistent. The LMMs indicates that, at the four time-points, the estimated marginal means of students' perceptions fluctuate between 6 and 7 (range 1-10). A placement in community care did not positively influence students' perceptions, and an intensive 1 week theoretical programme was only temporarily influential.
Conclusions: Although interest for placement in community care increased substantially, it was not clear which curriculum elements stimulated this, nor did the curriculum positively influence students' perceptions. As most students do not look forward to the high responsibility of the field, other curricula with educational tracks for more mature students/ nurses with a vocational training may be an alternative contribution to solving the labour market problems in community care.