Community-dwelling senior citizens help nursing students to learn – Janet Wong

One may think that it is always the healthcare professionals who offer a helping hand to serve the needy. Indeed, it is observed that helping can be bi-directional as demonstrated in our initiation of simulated practice. Characterized by the person-centered nature, nursing practice puts a great emphasis on understanding patients’ needs. How can we offer help that tailor the patients’ needs? As the educators of nursing professionals, our team believe that acquiring nursing knowledge and accumulating clinical experiences in a wide range of settings shall go hand-in-hand.

In such fickle clinical setting with uncertainties, sometimes, nursing students may be anxious about managing patient care. Therefore, in the past two years, experiential learning by involving simulated patients (SPs) has been introduced in the undergraduate nursing curriculum. We would like to provide a safe learning opportunity with stimulated clinical situations to enhance students’ clinical applications. Apart from that, we also would like to create serving opportunities and establish partnership with senior citizens in community. Therefore, we invited community members, via the non-governmental organisations, to participate in this experiential learning project. Before the simulation sessions, the SPs underwent training by our nursing teachers. Based on the pre-designed real life scenarios with provisional diagnoses, the SPs were able to demonstrate the assigned emotional states, behaviours and responses to the physical examinations in the nursing care.

SPs indeed helped to train nursing students to develop a flexible mind and critical thinking for implementing the nursing care plan. The feedback of simulated practice from nursing students was generally positive, showing that the approach was “useful”, “realistic” and “helpful” in enriching their learning experience. The essential role that the dwelling senior citizens played to develop the students’ clinical skills is greatly appreciated. It is also surprising to hear that the students even showed eagerness to engage in more frequent simulation tasks with longer duration. We are glad to receive such satisfying outcomes of simulated practice.

On one hand, students gained reflection on their learning via this first-hand experience. On the other hand, senior community members were very fulfilling to be able to participate in nursing education and nurturing nursing students. This innovative learning experience delivers the message of “helping as bi-directional and mutually rewarding”. It is the contribution of the senior citizens as stimulated patients that brings the students a real taste of client-based nursing practice and increases the students’ confidence in assessing and managing patients’ needs. We are exciting to initiate this new element in nursing education and foresee that simulated practice can offer additional benefits for nursing undergraduates in handling patients in real life situations in future. The impact of this simulated practice extends beyond the development of students’ competences through connecting students with the senior citizens and establishing a sustaining and rewarding relationship between the university and the community.


This article is based on a Teaching Development Project entitled “Enhancing Critical Thinking Skills among Nursing Undergraduates by Developing Real Life Scenarios Using Community Dwelling Simulated Patients”.

Dr. Janet Wong
Dr. Janet Wong

Associate Professor
School of Nursing
Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine
The University of Hong Kong
Please cite as: Wong, J. (2019, January). Community-dwelling senior citizens help nursing students to learn. Teaching and Learning Connections, 8. Retrieved from

Start typing and press Enter to search