“Everyone’s got a story”: Nursing and allied health students’ attitudes (interest, desire, and intent) to work with older adults on graduation
Keywords:students' perceptions, older people, ageism
Introduction: Our ageing population requires a highly skilled labour force to ensure the increasing needs of older adults within the health sector are responded to appropriately. Working with older adults can be very rewarding. However, for many university students, it is an unpopular career choice. This study aimed at assessing nursing and allied health students’ perceptions and attitudes along with their interests in working with older adults after graduation.
Methods: This study was part of a larger study conducted from July to December 2020. Five focus groups were conducted with 17 first-semester undergraduate students aged 19–43 years, two of whom were male. Semi-structured questions were conducted with thematic analysis to gain insight into interest in working with older adults on graduation.
Results: Results indicated that older adults were perceived on an age continuum that can be described as “young-old” to “old-old”, with age being “just a number” and that there are variations indicating heterogeneity among older adults. Participants discussed that older adults could be interesting to talk to and be a source of wisdom, using examples from their experiences with older relatives. Challenges of ageing were identified, including physical and cognitive decline, loneliness and financial constraints. A perception of stigma working in aged care along with little financial incentives was identified.
Conclusion: This study provides evidence that students require the opportunity to experience working with older adults in placements and given mentorship opportunities to work specifically with older adults. Further research is needed around scholarship of teaching and learning to address attitude- and stereotype-based positive change.
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