The knowledge and attitudes of final-year medical students regarding care of older patients

K Naidoo, J van Wyk


Background. South African (SA) studies indicate that elderly patients receive poor-quality and inadequate medical care at primary care level. Medical schools must be responsive to the needs of the communities they serve. This article reviews medical students’ knowledge of and attitudes towards caring for older patients to identify areas to enhance their learning.
Objective. To evaluate the knowledge and attitudes of final-year medical students regarding the care of older patients at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Durban, SA.

Methods. All final-year medical students were invited to complete a self-administered questionnaire that evaluated their geriatric knowledge and attitudes. Geriatric knowledge was assessed with a modified Palmore’s Facts on Aging Quiz, and the UCLA geriatric attitudes scale was used to assess their attitudes. Ethical approval was obtained from the UKZN Biomedical Research Ethics Committee and data were collected from September to November 2019. Results. There was a 79% (n=173) response rate. The average age of participants was 24 (interquartile range (IQR) 23 - 24) years. The mean geriatric knowledge score was 56.8% (standard deviation 10.4). The mean attitude score was 3.67 out of 5, indicating mildly positive attitudes towards caring for older patients. The majority of students expressed difficulties in communicating with older patients.

Conclusion. The poor knowledge and mildly positive attitudes of students necessitate educational interventions to stimulate student interest in geriatrics and improve learning in this field, including increased attention to communication skills training relevant to the care of older patients.

Authors' affiliations

K Naidoo, Department of Family Medicine, School of Nursing and Public Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

J van Wyk, Discipline of Clinical and Professional Practice, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2021;13(4):235. DOI:10.7196/AJHPE.2021.v13i4.133

Article History

Date submitted: 2022-01-28
Date published: 2022-01-28

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