Factors that influence nurses’ attitudes towards working with older adults: a qualitative descriptive study
In line with global trends, the population in New Zealand is ageing. It is projected that the total population of New Zealand will be around 5 million people by the mid-2020s and by the late 2020s approximately 20% of those will be aged 65 years and older (Stats NZ Tatauranga Aotearoa, 2016). It has been suggested that an ageing population may mean an increase in chronic and long term health issues that require a disproportionate level of input from the healthcare sector. To meet these needs there will need to be an increased number of nurses who specialise in the care of the older adult. The concern is that not enough nursing graduates are choosing to specialise in gerontology, leaving a workforce that is ill equipped to cope with the increased future demands our populations will place on the healthcare system. An extensive literature review highlighted a number of reasons that new graduate nurses are not choosing the older adult setting. The purpose of this study was to ascertain the factors that influence new graduate nurses in New Zealand when making choices to work with older adults and to establish where the similarities and differences may be with regard to what is currently understood. Using a qualitative descriptive methodology, eight participants were interviewed, four student nurses from Auckland nursing schools and four experienced RNs from a regional Auckland DHB. Two main themes emerged from the data, the first being pre-existing factors and the second is specific factors related to nursing education. Each theme is then broken down into a further three subthemes. The findings of this research have implications for how specialist knowledge around nursing older adults is delivered at undergraduate level. It is hoped that by offering recommendations on how changes could be incorporated there will be a beneficial impact on how student nurses understand and perceive the complexity of nursing older adults which will increase the numbers choosing this area of nursing to practice in.