Upper Midwestern Baccalaureate Nursing Students Attitudes toward Poverty

Wednesday, 14 July 2010: 11:00 AM

Rebecca Randall, EdD, MS, RN
Department of Undergraduate Nursing, College of Nursing, Brookings, SD
Karen Card, PhD, MS, BS
Division of Educational Administration, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD

Learning Objective 1: state the importance of understanding attitudes toward poverty.

Learning Objective 2: identify experiences identified by students as factors that influenced their attitudes toward poverty.


The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2008) recognizes that nurses care for a diverse patient population. Diversity includes socioeconomic status and health disparities. This descriptive study identified baccalaureate nursing students’ attitudes and beliefs about poverty. This study is significant because care is improved when nurses have positive attitudes toward poverty and understand the relationship between poverty and health disparities (Benson, 2008; Erlen, 2003; Smith, 2007).


The theoretical base for the study was Jean Watson’s Philosophy and Science of Caring Theory (Watson, 1979). A modified Attitudes Toward Poverty Scale (Atherton and Gemmel, 1993) was administered to a convenience sample of 341 junior or senior level baccalaureate nursing students in the Upper Midwest. Attitudes toward poverty was the dependent variable. Independent variables included volunteerism, employment, clinical courses, age, gender, and type of nursing program. Frequencies, means, standard deviations, t tests and ANOVAs were calculated. The significance level was p<.05.


Students recognized the value of caring when working with the poor and held neutral attitudes toward poverty. Clinical nursing courses, employment, and volunteerism strongly influenced attitudes toward poverty. Several variables showed significant differences. The statement that the poor are responsible for their situation, F (2, 232) = 5.45, p = .005, indicated a significantly more positive attitude associated with clinical experience (M = 3.69, SD = .80) than employment (M = 3.13, SD = .82).


This study is valuable for educators, employers, and students. Exposure to poverty and clinical experiences influenced student attitudes toward poverty. Nurse educators should utilize caring theory, examine the influence of clinical on attitudes toward poverty, and consider clinical experiences with the poor. Nurses who understand the relationship between poverty and health disparities are equipped to foster positive nurse-client interactions and improve the quality of care and patient health.