OBJECTIVES: To review recent literature on student nurses' perceptions of different areas of nursing practice, in particular community care. Healthcare is changing from care delivery in institutional settings to care to patients in their own homes. Problematic is that nursing students do not see community care as an attractive line of work, and their perceptions of community care do not reflect the realities of the profession. Understanding the factors influencing the perception of the professional field is important to positively influence students' willingness to see community nursing as a future profession.
DESIGN: Literature search with accompanying narrative synthesis of primary research.
DATA SOURCES: ERIC(®), PsycInfo(®), Pubmed(®), and CINAHL(®) (2004-2014) databases using the search terms: 'nursing student', 'student nurse', 'community care', 'community nurse', 'image', 'attitude', and 'perception'.
REVIEW METHODS: After screening 522 retrieved article titles with abstracts, the number of articles was reduced based upon specified inclusion/exclusion criteria leading to inclusion of 34. Evaluation of the references in those articles yielded an additional 5 articles. A narrative synthesis of those articles was created to uncover students' perception of community care, other areas of professional practice, and the factors influencing those perceptions.
RESULTS: 39 articles were selected. Results show that many nursing students begin their education with a lay person's conception of the profession, shaped by media representations. Work placements in different settings offer clinical experience that helps students orient themselves towards a future profession. Students prefer hospitals as a place of work, because of the acute nature and technologically advanced level of care offered there. Few students perceive mental health and elderly care as appealing. Perceptions of community care can vary widely, the most prevalent view being that it is unattractive because of its chronic care profile, with little technical skill, untrained workers, and a high workload. However, another view is that it offers challenging and meaningful work because of the variety of caregiving roles and the opportunity to work independently.
CONCLUSIONS: Few nursing students choose community nursing as a future profession. They have a limited and often mistaken view of community care, and they underestimate the field's complexity because it is less visible than in the environment of acute care. Providing students with specific curricular content and employing a structured approach to preparation for work placement could help build a more positive perception of community care, leading to more students seeing/choosing community care as a desirable field of work.