In Canada, the population is increasingly aging from 2011 to 2016 Canada saw the largest increase in seniors the increase in the population age is due to the first baby boomers reaching the age of 65 (Statistics Canada, 2017). With the aging population, it is more important than ever to make sure nurses have the proper training to work with older adults as there is going to be a demand for nurses with this training (Gould, Dupuis-Blanchard, & Maclennan, 2013). One factor which has been linked to nursing students choosing a career in gerontology is their attitudes toward older adults (Gibbs, & Kulig, 2017). How a nursing student feels about working with older adults is often influenced by what they are taught in class and by their clinical instructors and nurses they see during their rotations. Individuals learn by watching others such as role models and their thoughts and attitudes are greatly affected by observations, therefore, nursing students learn their professional attitudes by watching their instructors and other nurses (Gibbs, & Kulig, 2017).Nursing student’s negative attitudes towards older adults can also be caused by their lack of knowledge of older adults (Mandville-Anstey, Ward, Grainger, & Foley, 2014). Most people only see discrimination over sex and race but people also discriminated against overage, these stereotypes are caused because “ Some people believe that older persons are unattractive and become worthless to society after they leave the workforce. Others consider the knowledge and experience of older persons to be too old-fashioned to have any current value these notions underlie the concept of ageism” (Potter, Perry, Stockert, & Hall, 2019, p.413). An ageist view due to negative stereotypes is often seen in the general population, and it is suggested that nurses are more prone to be affected by these views because they work with frail and ill older adults (Mandville-Anstey et al., 2014).
A negative attitude can also come from how they perceive geriatric nursing, many students see it as repetitive and boring because they are doing the same things over and over, some students even found that their clinical instructors and other nurses were pushing them not to go into geriatrics because it is seen aa specialty that you go into when you want to slow down (Gould et al., 2013). If nursing students feel that others disapprove of them going into geriatrics right out of school they are likely to have a negative attitude of working with older adults and more likely to not go into working with them. According to Gould et al. (2013), for many students, geriatric nursing means the care of people with dementia which turns them away from geriatrics because they find the care of clients with dementia very difficult and unfulfilling. This all causes negative attitudes towards working with older adults and makes students want to avoid it if they can.
A nursing student’s negative attitude towards older adults can cause them to treat older adults differently. When conducting a nursing assessment on older adults a nursing student’s negative attitude can affect the results of the client’s assessment. According to Potter et al. (2019), “Ageism has the potential to undermine the self-confidence of older persons, limit their access to care, and distort caregivers’ understanding of the uniqueness of each older person” (p.413). When a nurse with these views conducts a nursing assessment, there are some indicators of illness that they may brush off as the person just being old when in reality they are a precursor to something more serious for example “early indicators of acute illness in older persons: change in mental status, falls, dehydration, decrease in appetite, loss of function, dizziness, and inconteinence” (Potter et al., 2019, p.414).
The goal of nurses is to give their clients the best care that they can. This is not easy to achieve especially for a nurse who holds a negative attitude towards a specific demographic group, which makes it important to make sure that nursing students get the proper guidance to give competent care to their clients of any age or group. This can be accomplished by having positive role models for the students. According to Gibbs & Kulig (2017), it is shown that nursing student’s attitudes can be influenced by how their clinical instructors use demonstration, expectations, and support. There are some different strateriges that clinical instructors can use to foster positive attitudes and example of this is “displaying consistent compassion towards clients (demonstrations), encouraging a thorough approach to assisting clients with personal care (expectations), and fostering students’ confidence through instructors’ presence during initial interactions with clients (support)” (Gibbs & Kulig, 2017, p.6). Clinical instructors play a key role in influencing nursing students and are often seen as role models by demonstrating therapeutic communication, positive attitudes, compassion, enthusiasm, and critical thinking since individuals learn by observing others and (Gibbs & Kulig 2017).
In nursing, a nurse’s attitude plays a big role in how clients get cared for espically older adults nursing students must get well educated and understand how to care for older adults with a positive attitude. Since Canada’s population is increasing in age the demand for nurses to care for older adults is also increasing while some students hold a positive attitude towards older adults others have a negative attitude. A negative attitude is often caused by misconceptions, lack of knowledge, or lack of guidance.