It is well known that Australia has an aging population and that the elderly are disproportionately overrepresented in the patients seen by ambulance paramedics. While research to date has primarily focussed on the attitudes towards the elderly held by nursing and medical students, there is a current paucity of research about the perspective of paramedic students. The objective of this study was to identify the attitudes of paramedic students from a large Australian university towards the elderly.Methods
In 2013, second year paramedic students from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia were invited to participate in this cross-sectional study and record their attitudes towards the elderly (age >65) using the Aging Semantic Differential (ASD) questionnaire. The ASD utilises a 7 point bipolar Likert scale questionnaire consisting of 32 items and three subscales: Instrument—Ineffective; Autonomous—Dependent; Personal Acceptability—Unacceptability.Results
Fifty six second year paramedic students participated in the study. The participants were predominantly <26 years of age n=48 (85.7%) and female n=36 (64.3%). Subscale results produced the following mean scores: Instrument—Ineffective (mean=35.05, SD=5.01); Autonomous—Dependent (mean=34.25, SD=4.26); Personal Acceptability—Unacceptability (mean=49.47, SD=6.44).Conclusion
These results suggest that while student paramedics possess a healthy respect for the elderly, they also harbour some preconceived negative ideas about them. Ultimately, these attitudes may impact on a paramedic’s interaction with, and management of the elderly patient, which raises questions about whether students are being adequately prepared for clinical practice.
Leung S, Logiudice D, Schwarz J, Brand C. Hospital doctors' attitudes towards older people. Intern Med J. 2011;41(4):308-14.
Higgins I, Van Der Riet P, Slater L, Peek C. The negative attitudes of nurses towards older patients in the acute hospital setting: a qualitative descriptive study. Contemp Nurse. 2007;26(2):225-37.
Prendergast HM, Jurivich D, Edison M, Bunney EB, Williams J, Schlichting A. Preparing the front line for the increase in the aging population: geriatric curriculum development for an emergency medicine residency program. J Emerg Med. 2010;38(3):386-92.
Lowthian JA, Jolley DJ, Curtis AJ, Currell A, Cameron PA, Stoelwinder JU, et al. The challenges of population ageing: accelerating demand for emergency ambulance services by older patients, 1995-2015. Med J Aust. 2011;194(11):574-8.
Henderson J, Xiao L, Siegloff L, Kelton M, Paterson J. 'Older people have lived their lives': First year nursing students' attitudes towards older people. Contemp Nurse. 2008;30(1):32-45.
McLafferty I, Morrison F. Attitudes towards hospitalized older adults. J Adv Nurs. 2004;47(4):446-53.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2071.0 - Reflecting a Nation: Stories from the 2011 Census, 2012–2013 Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics; 2012 [cited 2013 August 12]; Available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/2071.0main+features752012-2013.
Melby V, Ryan A. Caring for older people in prehospital emergency care: can nurses make a difference? J Clin Nurs. 2005;14(9):1141-50.
Clark MJ, FitzGerald G. Older people's use of ambulance services: a population based analysis. J Accid Emerg Med. 1999;16(2):108-11.
Moons P, Arnauts H, Delooz HH. Nursing issues in care for the elderly in the emergency department: an overview of the literature. Accid Emerg Nurs. 2003;11(2):112-20.
Evers C, Ploeg J, Kaasalainen S. Case study of the attitudes and values of nursing students toward caring for older adults. J Nurs Educ. 2011;50(7):404-9.
Fleisher FI, White LJ, McMullen MJ, Chambers R. The geriatric obstacle course: a training session designed to help prehospital personnel recognize geriatric stereotypes and misconceptions. J Emerg Med. 1996;14(4):439-44.
Williams B, Anderson MC, Day R. Undergraduate nursing students' knowledge of and attitudes toward aging: comparison of context-based learning and a traditional program. J Nurs Educ. 2007;46(3):115-20.
Bagri AS, Tiberius R. Medical student perspectives on geriatrics and geriatric education. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2010;58(10):1994-9.
Holroyd A, Dahlke S, Fehr C, Jung P, Hunter A. Attitudes toward aging: implications for a caring profession. J Nurs Educ. 2009;48(7):374-80.
Lui NL, Wong CH. Junior doctors' attitudes towards older adults and its correlates in a tertiary-care public hospital. Ann Acad Med Singapore. 2009;38(2):125-9.
Nilsson A, Lindkvist M, Rasmussen BH, Edvardsson D. Staff attitudes towards older patients with cognitive impairment: need for improvements in acute care. J Nurs Manag. 2012;20(5):640-7.
Stewart TJ, Eleazer GP, Boland R, Wieland GD. The Middle of the Road: Results from the Aging Semantic Differential with Four Cohorts of Medical Students. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2007;55(8):1275-80.
Gellis ZD, Sherman S, Lawrance F. First year graduate social work students' knowledge of and attitude toward older adults. Educational Gerontology. 2003;29(1):1-16.
Courtney M, Tong S, Walsh A. Acute-care nurses’ attitudes towards older patients: A literature review. Int J Nurs Pract. 2000;6(2):62-9.
McKinlay A, Cowan S. Student nurses' attitudes towards working with older patients. J Adv Nurs. 2003;43(3):298-309.
Gonzales E, Tan J, Morrow-Howell N. Assessment of the refined aging semantic differential: Recommendations for enhancing validity. Journal of gerontological social work. 2010;53(4):304-18.
Hawkins MJ. College students’ attitud
es toward elderly persons. Educational Gerontology. 1996;22(3):271-9.
Wade S. Promoting quality of care for older people: developing positive attitudes to working with older people. J Nurs Manag. 1999;7(6):339-47.
Ragan AM, Bowen AM. Improving attitudes regarding the elderly population: the effects of information and reinforcement for change. Gerontologist. 2001;41(4):511-5.
Biese KJ, Roberts E, LaMantia M, Zamora Z, Shofer FS, Snyder G, et al. Effect of a geriatric curriculum on emergency medicine resident attitudes, knowledge, and decision-making. Acad Emerg Med. 2011;18 Suppl 2:S92-6.
Jones JS, Rousseau EW, Schropp MA, Sanders AB. Geriatric training in emergency medicine residency programs. Ann Emerg Med. 1992;21(7):825-9.
Rosencranz HA, McNevin TE. A factor analysis of attitudes toward the aged. Gerontologist. 1969;9(1):55-9.
Intrieri RC, von Eye A, Kelly JA. The Aging Semantic Differential: A Confirmatory Factor Analysis. The Gerontologist. 1995;35(5):616-21.
Polizzi KG, Steitz JA. Examining the aging semantic differential: suggestions for refinement. Educational Gerontology. 1998;24(3):207-23.
Helmuth AM. Nurses' attitudes toward older persons on their use of physical restraints. Orthop Nurs. 1995;14(2):43-51.
Ahmed NN, Farnie M, Dyer CB. The effect of geriatric and palliative medicine education on the knowledge and attitudes of internal medicine residents. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011;59(1):143-7.
Allan L, Johnson J. Undergraduate attitudes toward the elderly: The role of knowledge, contact and aging anxiety. Educ Gerontol. 2008;35(1):1-14.
Varkey P, Chutka D, Lesnick T. The aging game: improving medical students’ attitudes toward caring for the elderly. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2006;7(4):224-9.