Document Type


Publication Date



Medical Students; Non-Traditional Medical Students


Purpose: To understand the experience of mature-aged medical students on clinical rotations.

Background/Theoretical Framework: Although the mean age of first year medical students is 24, an increasing number of "mature-aged" students, defined as over age 30, are entering medical school. Most studies of mature-aged medical students have examined academic performance using quantitative research design. Few studies have employed qualitative methodology to determine the experience of mature-aged medical students, especially in the clinical setting.

Methods: A recruitment e-mail was sent to all medical students enrolled in clinical rotations; first responders were interviewed until saturation in emerging themes was achieved. Interviews were conducted and recorded in a private office setting, then transcribed into a Word document. Five mature-aged students and four traditional students were interviewed. Using methodology for qualitative research described by Mustakas (1994), the investigators individually coded the transcripts to identify emerging themes. Coded themes underwent peer review, with triangulation of data collection, to determine main themes.

Results: Three main themes emerged from our study. First, abundant life experience influences students perception of their role on clinical rotations. A mature student explained, "...having kids... being married and divorced... helps in connecting with patients." Previous work experience shapes expectations as a physician-in-training. While traditional students tend to be "intimidated," mature students desire to "take the initiative." Age plays a role in the students' ability to relate to senior team members, as well as medical student colleagues. Traditional students note that mature students are "more realistic" due to their "life experience in the workplace."

Conclusion: Mature-aged students draw upon previous life experience, which shapes role expectations, as well as medical team dynamics. These differences may have implications in training the growing number of mature-aged medical students. A larger scale qualitative study including multiple medical school sites is being developed.


Presented at: George Washington University Research Days 2013.

Open Access




To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.