Medical students’ and doctors’ attitudes towards older patients and their care in hospital settings: a conceptualisation

Samra, Rajvinder; Griffiths, Amanda; Cox, Tom; Conroy, Simon; Gordon, Adam and Gladman, John R. F. (2015). Medical students’ and doctors’ attitudes towards older patients and their care in hospital settings: a conceptualisation. Age and Ageing, 44(5) pp. 776–783.



Background: despite assertions in reports from governmental and charitable bodies that negative staff attitudes towards older patients may contribute to inequitable healthcare provision for older patients when compared with younger patients (those aged under 65 years), the research literature does not describe these attitudes in any detail.
Objective: this study explored and conceptualised attitudes towards older patients using in-depth interviews.
Methods: twenty-five semi-structured interviews with medical students and hospital-based doctors in a UK acute teaching hospital were conducted. Participants were asked about their beliefs, emotions and behavioural tendencies towards older patients, in line with the psychological literature on the definition of attitudes (affective, cognitive and behavioural information). Data were analysed thematically.
Results: attitudes towards older patients and their care could be conceptualised under the headings: (i) beliefs about older patients; (ii) older patients’ unique needs and the skills required to care for them and (iii) emotions and satisfaction with caring for older patients.
Conclusions: our findings outlined common beliefs and stereotypes specific to older patients, as opposed to older people in general. Older patients had unique needs concerning their healthcare. Participants typically described negative emotions about caring for older patients, but the sources of dissatisfaction largely related to the organisational setting and system in which the care is delivered to these patients. This study marks one of the first in-depth attempts to explore attitudes towards older patients in UK hospital settings.

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