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• Gerontological content is often integrated throughout nursing curricula
• Focused education can improve students' perceptions of working with older adults
• Negative perceptions of older adults can be transformed through education
• Curricula should include focused, evidence-based courses in gerontological nursing
BackgroundWith an aging population, it is critical that nurses are educated and prepared to offer quality healthcare to this client group. Incorporating gerontology content into nursing curricula and addressing students' perceptions and career choices in relation to working with older adults are important faculty concerns.ObjectivesTo examine the impact of a stand-alone course in gerontological nursing on undergraduate nursing students' perceptions of working with older adults and career intentions.DesignQuasi-experimental, pre- and post-test design.SettingMedium-sized state university in the Mid Western United StatesParticipantsData were collected from three student cohorts during the spring semesters of 2012 (n = 98), 2013 (n = 80) and 2014 (n = 88) for a total of N = 266 with an average response rate of 85%.MethodsA survey instrument was administered via Qualtrics and completed by students prior to, and following completion of the course.ResultsThere was an overall significant increase (p = 0.000) in positive perceptions of working with older adults among nursing students following completion of the course. The majority of participants (83.5%) reported having previous experience with older adults. Those with previous experience had higher perception scores at pre-test than those without (p = 0.000). Post-test scores showed no significant difference between these two groups, with both groups having increased perception scores (p = 0.120). Student preferences for working with different age groups suggested an overall increase in preference for working with older adults following the course.ConclusionsA course in gerontological nursing, incorporating learning partnerships with community dwelling older adults, promotes positive perceptions of working with older adults, independently of the quality of prior experience. There was some evidence that students changed their preferences of working with different age groups in favor of working with older adults. Further research should be conducted to determine the mechanisms through which this takes place.
Journal: Nurse Education Today - Volume 46, November 2016, Pages 17–23