Disability Attitudes in Health Care: A New Scale Instrument


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Abstract

Objective:The aims of this study were to develop and validate an instrument measuring attitudes toward providing health care to patients with disability, to compare the attitudes of preclinical and clinical medical students, and to examine whether sex, a background in disability, or career interest in physical medicine and rehabilitation affect medical student attitudes toward working with patients with disability.Design:A cross-sectional survey was conducted in an academic medical center with participants that included preclinical (n = 63) and clinical medical (n = 58) students, physical medicine and rehabilitation residents (n = 18), and internal medicine residents (n = 10). A 17-item Disability Attitudes in Health Care scale was developed based on existing, validated geriatrics attitudes scales. Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons Form O scale was used for correlation testing. Background demographic data collected from medical student respondents included sex, previous personal or work experience with disability, and career interest in physical medicine and rehabilitation.Results:The new scale demonstrated high reliability (Cronbach α = 0.74) and criterion validity (correlation coefficient = 0.54 with the Attitude Towards Disabled Persons scale). Attitudes were no different between preclinical and clinical medical students. Male medical students had more negative attitudes than female students did (P = 0.03). Students with a higher level of career interest in physical medicine and rehabilitation scored higher than less interested students did (P = 0.015).Conclusions:The new Disability Attitudes in Health Care scale developed in this study shows good internal consistency and criterion validity. Attitudes toward caring for patients with disability seem to be unrelated to the standard medical education curriculum or previous experience with disability. Specific educational experiences may be designed to engender more positive attitudes toward providing health care to this patient population.

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