The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of a year-long nursing home-based Clerkship Program on the attitudes of first-year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students toward older adults (OAs).
Forty-six DPT students (Mean age 23; SD 1.7 years) enrolled in the Program in Physical Therapy at the University of Minnesota completed pre/post assessments using the Geriatrics Attitudes Scale (GAS) and reflective journal writing assignments over the course of the academic year.
At baseline, student attitudes toward OAs were positive with a mean attitude score of 3.6 ± 0.31 (SD) (p=0.0001; neutral=3). No change in GAS attitude scores was observed for the cohort as a whole; however, the attitudes of students with baseline GAS scores in the bottom 40% demonstrated improvement (mean pre/post improvement 0.14; p=0.05). Analysis of student reflective journals revealed more nuance in student attitudes toward OAs. Using a thematic narrative analysis approach, we found many students (approximately 40%) became more positive toward OAs over time. Students described key benefits of working with OAs as being able to make a difference in patients’ quality of life, feeling appreciated by patients, and enjoying relationships they developed with patients over time. Many described being more confident and interested in working with OAs in the future. Nearly all students expressed increased appreciation for the complexity of geriatrics clinical practice.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: The Pursuit of Excellence in Physical Therapy Education
Results of this study suggest longitudinal experiences may positively affect student attitudes toward work with OAs and highlight the benefits of using mixed methods to assess student attitudes.
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