Our future in geriatrics : an examination of the knowledge, attitudes and career choices of physical therapy students in Ontario : a pretest-posttest study /
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There continues to be a shortage of health professionals interested in providing care for the older adult. Part of the problem seems to stem from the negative perceptions of geriatrics as a clinical speciality. This study examines the knowledge, attitudes and career decisions of physical therapy students in Ontario before and after an educational intervention. Surveys were conducted with 144 physical therapy students from five universities before and after their geriatrics course in order to measure their knowledge, attitudes and interest in working with older adults. The incoming class of physical therapy students (n = 1 86) acted as control subjects for the study. The Revised Palmore Facts On Aging Quiz measured the students' knowledge of aging (Miller & Dodder, 1980). The Revised Tuckman-Lorge (Axelrod & Eisdorfer, 1961) and the Kogan Old People Scales (Kogan, 1961) were used to examine attitude. An environmental scale was developed based on the work of Snape (1986) to measure the impact of the working conditions on the students' career choices. A 10-point Likert-type scale based on the work of Michlelutte & Diseker (1985) was modified and used to measure career interest in working with the elderly. On independent sample t-tests, positive attitudes were related to the demographic characteristic of gender; ethnicity was negatively related; and marital status was found to be unrelated to attitude (fi<.05). Having a relationship with an older adult and taking courses in gerontology were also found to be positively related to attitude (fi<.05). Results on a betweensubjects design which compared students before and after the course found that knowledge scores improved from pretest to posttest (fi<.05). In general, attitude scores improved from T1 to T2 on both measurement tools (b<.05). The environmental and vocational interest scales yielded statistically significant differences between the control and experimental groups during the intervention period (p<.05). The results of this research indicated that knowledge and attitudes improve after an educational intervention; however, there was little impact on the students' overall career decisions. Further research is indicated to examine the complex relationship between attitude and behaviour and its impact on students' career choices. In addition, the impact of geriatric clinical environment on students' attitudes and career decisions needs to be further explored.