Attitudes, Experiences, and Interest in Geriatrics of First-Year Allopathic and Osteopathic Medical Students
A cross-sectional survey was designed to assess interest in geriatric medicine of allopathic and osteopathic medical students and to determine whether their career interests were related to past experiences with and current attitudes toward older adults. The study was conducted at an allopathic and osteopathic medical school with 231 first-year medical students. Experiences with elderly people were measured using survey questions assessing amount and quality of experiences with grandparents, as well as experiences caring for, volunteering with, or having a paid position working with older adults. Attitudes were measured using the University of California at Los Angeles Geriatric Attitudes Scale, revised for applicability to medical students. Interest in geriatrics was measured using a 4-point scale. Overall, students expressed positive attitudes toward older adults. Past experiences, including positive relationships with older relatives (P<.001) and experiences providing care for older adults (P<.001), were related to more-positive attitude scores toward elderly people. Students had low interest in geriatric medicine, but those with more-positive attitudes were more likely to consider geriatrics as a career (odds ratio=8.18, P<.001). Furthermore, having prior experience caring for older persons increased interest in the field (P=.001). No significant differences were found between allopathic and osteopathic student interest in geriatrics or attitudes toward older adults. Efforts toward increasing the pool of future geriatricians and increasing positive attitudes toward older patients could be improved by providing quality experiences caring for and interacting with older adults before medical school training.
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