Nursing Education: Building Gerontological Capacity and Capability by Improving Perceptions of Older Adults by Nursing Students

Thursday, 2 August 2012: 8:30 AM

Barbara A. Heise, PhD, APRN, BC
Vickie Johnsen, PhD, RN
College of Nursing, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

Learning Objective 1: 1. The learner will be able to identify one teaching method during presentation of didactic content to improve student perceptions of older adults.

Learning Objective 2: 2. The learner will be able to identify one clinical teaching method to improve student perceptions of older adults.

An aging crisis exists globally. Despite the influx of the older adult population, there exists a lack of trained gerontological healthcare professionals (Lun, 2011). Ageism is commonplace. Nursing students frequently see gerontological nursing as the last area in which to work. A lack of anything in common and anxiety about working with older adults is often expressed. Nursing clinical placements in gerontology demonstrate equivocal results. Placements in long-term care (LTC) facilities may enhance negative perceptions (Marsland & Hickey, 2003). Clinical experiences with healthy older adults may improve student attitudes toward working with older adults (Furze et al, 2008).  A concern with working only with healthy older adults is that while the students may have a happier experience, it still may not change the underlying negative perceptions of the elderly when working with fragile and ill older adults commonly seen in hospital or LTC settings.

Preliminary qualitative findings demonstrate that perceptions of seniors improve with an innovative educational approach of interaction with healthy and frail older adults and with didactic experiences that promote seniors positively. This pilot project is a prospective mixed method (qualitative/pretest-posttest) study to determine the impact of clinical experiences at a LTC facility only versus placements in a LTC facility with two types of healthy aging assignments (written versus participation at senior athletic events) and to determine if that attitude is sustained.

Furze, J., Lohman, H., & Mu, K. (2008). Impact of an interprofessional community-based educational experience on students’ perceptions of other health professions and older adults. Journal of Allied Health, 37, 71-77.

Lun, M. (2011). Student knowledge and attitudes toward older people and their impact on pursuing aging careers. Educational Gerontology, 37(1), 1-11.

Marsland, L. & Hickey, G. (2003). Planning a pathway in nursing: Do course experiences influence job plans? Nurse Education Today, 23(3), 226-235.