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Contemp Nurse. 2008 Aug;30(1):32-45.

'Older people have lived their lives': first year nursing students' attitudes towards older people.

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  • 1School of Nursing & Midwifery, Flinders University, Adelaide SA, Australia.


A survey was conducted with 262 commencing nursing students at a South Australian university, during a compulsory orientation week lecture prior to the first week of their nursing degree, to determine their attitudes towards older people and to working with older people. The survey provides baseline data to evaluate the efficacy of the Partnerships in Aged Care (PACE) Action Research project, the focus of which is developing aged care curriculum and placements with aged care industry partners. The survey will be replicated when this cohort completes their nursing degree. The results of this initial survey show that while commencing students generally have positive attitudes towards older people they do not aspire to work with them. The reasons cited for a lack of interest in working with older people include: poor experiences of providing care for older people; an inability to relate to or communicate with older people and a perception that the work is depressing and boring. Underpinning a negative perception of working with older people is the association of ageing with disability. Ageing for this cohort, is associated with loss of mental and physical function; loss of independence and increasing reliance on others to meet self care needs. This is viewed as evidence of a biomedical view of ageing. Contrary to previous research, many students studied in this project, who have had experience of working with older people, demonstrate more positive attitudes to older people and are less likely to express stereotypical attitudes towards ageing suggesting that positive exposure to older people can challenge ageist views. The PACE project seeks to demonstrate that strategies which may promote a positive attitude to ageing such as development of educational content which promotes a quality of life rather than a biomedical approach to ageing and supported clinical placements can impact positively on nursing students perception of ageing and of working with older people.

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