Abstract In view of the increasing emphasis on community-based primary health care, nursing education programs need to identify creative learning strategies to prepare nurses capable of promoting, maintaining and restoring health in diverse populations. The purpose of this descriptive study was to identify the learning outcomes acknowledged by junior baccalaureate nursing students in non-traditional community settings. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with the students, through journals kept daily by the students, and from the faculty tutor's anecdotal notes. Analysis of data illustrated concepts from Stewart's conceptual framework for primary health care. Students gained an appreciation of the influence of the social-cultural-political and physical environments on health. They also came to understand the significance of collaborative modes of interaction with recipients of nursing care. Thus, non-traditional community experiences demonstrated effectiveness in enhancing students' understanding of the multiple dimensions of health as well as the necessity for mutuality in nurse-person interactions. Providing varied learning environments in undergraduate nursing programs will produce practitioners who are more responsive to present and future primary health care issues.