Ageism in Nursing: Attitudes of Healthcare Workers Towards Older People

As the health of older people keeps deteriorating, they need proper care from nurses and clinicians. The article ‘Attitudes of Healthcare workers towards Older People in a Rural Population: A Survey Using the Kogan Scale’ by Doherty et al (2011) uses a qualitative research method to explain the attitudes of nurses towards older people. The purpose of this essay paper is to summarize the study and determine its significance in the nursing practice. It also explains the methods and research design used in the paper as well as the ethical considerations identified in the study. This essay argues that Doherty et al (2011) uses a qualitative survey, and has found out that nursing workers have positive attitudes towards the older people. Nurses with higher education are also found to have more positive attitudes. These findings contribute to the nursing practice by encouraging clinicians to develop positive attitudes through higher education and patient engagement. As a qualitative study, its ethical consideration is that consent was sought from participants and relevant authorities, and privacy and confidentiality of participants of the study were also considered.

The purpose of the study was to identify and evaluate the attitudes of healthcare assistance, nurses and nursing students towards older patients. After surveying a rural county in the Republic of Ireland, the study found out that the level of attitude of nursing workers towards older patients was positive. Attitudes of respondents were measured using Kogan’s Attitudes towards Older People Scale (KOP) which showed that there was no significant difference in terms of length of service, gender, job title and geographical place of work (Doherty et al, 2011). However, the attitudes KOP score differed between university graduates and those who do not have university degree. The study also found out that structural context of work and restrictive practices at the workplace cause negative attitudes among health care workers. There was no significant difference between KOP scores in different health care settings including community settings and nursing health facilities. This was considered to be in line with other past studies which did not detect significant differences in attitudes within different work settings.

This study suggests that healthcare assistance often come face to face with older people, yet their attitudes have not been given enough attention by researchers. According to the study, 37.7% of the health care assistants are university graduates (Doherty et al, 2011). Like previous studies, this study has found out that the university graduates have positive attitudes towards older people. As the shift towards nursing among university students increases, graduate nurses have developed more positive attitudes than non-graduate nurses because higher levels of education gives people better opportunities and make them more preferable and stable in terms of job opportunities.

To arrive at these findings, the study used a qualitative approach where the attitudes of nurses were collected through surveys in one of the rural counties of the Republic of Ireland. The rural area was chosen because rural areas of Ireland are characterized by rural-urban migration, leaving the older population without good care (Doherty et al, 2011). A survey questionnaire was administered and attitudes of nurses were measured using Kogan’s Attitudes towards Older People Scale (KOP). The KOP was measured in 6-point Likert scale starting with highly positive (6) to highly negative (1). The questionnaire was divided into two sections; one covered contextual and demographic data while the second part covered the Kogan’s attitudes towards older people.

The researchers sent the questionnaire by post to 20 public health nurses with an envelope to be used to send back the response (Doherty et al, 2011). The sample of respondents was selected using a simple random sampling approach. The total number of questionnaires sent to the respondents was 303, but 190 of them were returned, reflecting 62.2% response rate.

The data was analysed by first coding the questionnaires and standard methods were used to calculate KOP scores. The KOP scores were computed using 6-point Likert scale and the positive attitudes received higher scores (Doherty et al, 2011). The results were then analysed using statistical software SPSS. The characteristics of the sample were also explored using descriptive statistics. The significance level of the statistical data was 0.05. Mean attitude scores were computed using t-tests. Variance was also determined.

There are also some ethical considerations covered by the study. First, the participants were requested to participate voluntarily in the study. This is ethical because the participants were not forced or induced with stipends to participate. As a result, participants provide sincere and objective responses that reflect their true attitudes towards older people, and causing the study to produce objective and unbiased results (Loader et al, 2009). The responses were also sealed in envelopes to enhance privacy of the participants. Approval to proceed with the research was also sought from the Research Ethics Committee of the University of Ulster and the regional hospital’s Ethics Committee (Doherty et al, 2011). Apart from approval and privacy of participants, the study also focused other ethical approaches such as anonymity of participants, confidentiality, and informed consent. The different healthcare settings including community health settings, nursing units and acute hospitals were contacted in writing to seek for informed consent and permission. There was also little risk involved because the participants were employed nursing and healthcare workers.

This study has significant implications on the nursing practice. First, the study is used in policy implementation within the health care sector because it provides good insights on the level of attitudes required for health care workers and the antecedents of positive attitudes. The study found out that there are positive attitudes of nurses and other health care workers towards old people in acute and care programs (Doherty et al, 2011). Therefore, nursing managements and administrations utilize this finding to provide better care to old people who do not have enough care at their homes. The study also found out that rural areas require more attention from health care workers for the older people because young people have left them in search of better jobs in towns. In this regard, health care sector uses this finding to improve its investment in nursing and care of older people in rural areas (Courtney et al, 2000). Lastly, the study is significant in nursing practice because it encourages higher education for nurses. The study determined that higher education contributes to more positive attitudes of nurses towards older people. Therefore, the level of education for health care workers should be improved to enhance better care for older people.

In conclusion, it is clear that the study focused on the attitudes of health care workers towards older people. Using survey questionnaires sent to 20 respondents in rural counties of the Republic of Ireland, the study shows that nurses generally have positive attitudes towards older people, but the level of attitudes improves with the level of education of the health care workers. The study had some ethical considerations including informed consent, privacy, confidentiality, and anonymity of respondents. The policy implications of the study on nursing practice is that it encourages higher education among nursing professionals and encourages more involvement of health care workers in caring for older people in rural areas.


References List

Courtney, M. D., Shilu, T., & Walsh, A. M. (2000). Acute Care Nurses’ Attitudes towards Older Patients: a Literature Review. International Journal of Nursing Practice, 62-69.

Doherty, M., Mitchell, E. A., & O’Neill, S. (2011). Attitudes of Healthcare Workers towards Older People in a Rural Population: A Survey Using the Kogan Scale. Nursing Research and Practice, vol. 2011, 1-7.

Loader, B., Hardey, M., & Keeble, L. (2009). Digital welfare for the third age: Health and social care informatics for older people. London: Routledge.

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