Background: 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 in the United States. Few studies have employed qualitative methodology to determine the experience of mature-aged medical students, especially in the clinical setting.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to employ a qualitative design to compare the experience of mature-aged and traditional medical students on clinical rotations.
Methods: Using a qualitative research design, third-year medical students at The George Washington University were recruited and interviewed from April till May 2012 until saturation in emerging themes was achieved. Five mature-aged students and four traditional students participated in individual semi-structured interviews, which were recorded, transcribed and analyzed using qualitative methodology. Trustworthiness was ensured using epoché, journaling, coding and analyzing data based on Moustakas’ methodology, and triangulation of data analysis. Concept maps for each study group were created using Leximancer analysis software.
Results: Life experience, work experience and age emerged as major factors in determining medical student perception of expectations and role. Within these emergent themes, distinct differences were noted between the responses of the mature-aged and traditional medical students. Concept mapping confirmed these findings.
Conclusion: We have shown in this study that mature-aged students draw upon previous life experience, which shape role expectations, as well as medical team dynamics. Understanding the experience of mature-aged medical students in the clinical setting may have implications in medical school admission, curriculum design, and approach to clinical medical training.