Understanding Australian medical student attitudes towards older people

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Abstract

Objective

The aim of this article was to review the literature around Australian medical student attitudes towards older people.

Methods

An Ovid cross-search and SCOPUS search were performed using keywords such as ‘Attitude’, ‘Medical Student’ and ‘Aged or Older or Elderly’.

Results

Several recent studies have investigated the attitudes of Australian medical students towards older people. Baseline attitudes at two medical schools were positive. Three studies quantified attitude improvement after curriculum intervention. All the studies used US-developed instruments, which have not been validated in Australia. Qualitative studies have described mixed attitudes towards older people: negative themes included nihilism, paternalism, communication issues, greater morbidity and reduced quality of life. Positively, students placed value on clinical decision-making and critical reflection during residential aged care placements.

Conclusion

Australian medical students’ attitudes towards older people are mixed and not well understood based on quantitative measures developed for use in the US and on qualitative evidence. Future research in this area requires a reliable and locally-validated instrument.

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