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First impressions: Reality v. Expectations About Aged Care

McDonald, T. A. (ACKNOWLEDGE Casey, J.), 2011

IAHSA Conference, Washington, USA.


Background: Long-term care services struggle to be acknowledged for the valuable contribution they make to public health and social wellbeing. By investigating impressions and attitudes held by beginning students of nursing it was possible to discover what an informed general public may think about nursing, aged care and ageing.

Much has been written and said regarding the image of aged care and the impact this has on attracting and retaining staff, particularly nurses. Impressions held by the general community who have had little to do with contemporary aged care are generally based on negative reports in the media and stories of what the industry may have been like 20- 30 years ago. In an effort to counter these general images of aged care among nurses, students during their first week of studying nursing at Australian Catholic University were required to undertake an observational visit to an aged care context to observe professional roles and relationships as an introduction to nursing.

Objective: In this study, the reflective notes of 190 beginning students of nursing in the undergraduate degree program were analysed regarding their impressions of ageing, nursing and aged care. Their notes were transcribed and thematically analysed using the NVivo 8 program.

Methods: Following the students’ visit, they were required to write a short reflection on their visit as part of their graded assessment. Thematic analysis of the journal entries was undertaken and will be shared during this session with a full description of the structure of the observational visits. The emphasis given to aged care within the Bachelor of Nursing curriculum for Year One; and the responses of nurses, staff and managers of the facility which hosted these visits during 2009-2010.

Results: The data confirms the generally negative attitudes held by the general public towards ageing and nursing, even among people intent on a nursing career. Intense expectations related to other nursing contexts, such as hospitals, were also found to be present in many first impression notations. As a result of the positive experiences had during their visit to a modern aged care facility, many students changed their views about aged care. For the most part these changes were positive.

Evidence was also found that interactions observed between nurses, residents and students exert immediate and long-term influence over student nurses’ attitudes towards older people, their care, and those who provide that care.

Conclusions: Misinformed stereotypical images of aged care do not persist against student experiences of reality. While students can enter nursing with judgmental views on nursing roles and negative expectations of specialties derived from media, these can be dispelled by exposing students to positive experiences in aged care and nursing. Possible benefits to future nursing recruitment to aged care environments of introducing students to positive experiences in aged care as their first exposure to professional nursing roles will be canvassed, along with strategies to encourage student participation in aged care during their undergraduate studies.

CITATION McDonald T. (2011) First Impressions - Reality v expectations about aged care in workshop session 87E "Impressions of Aged Care" (Also, workshop was chaired by T McDonald). International Accommodation and Health Services for the Aged (IAHSA) and Leading Age Conference “Celebrate Age”. October 16-19. Washington Convention Centre, Washington, DC, USA.


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