• aged care;
  • attitudes;
  • education;
  • nursing home experience;
  • nursing students;
  • personal care attendants

Aim of the study.  The primary aim of the study was to examine the attitudes of undergraduate nursing students at the both the beginning and end of their nursing course.

Background.  Throughout Australia there is increasing awareness of the ageing of the population and the widespread implications this will have for the future. The ramifications for the health system are expected to be wide and far-reaching. For the nursing profession the increase in the number of aged people will increase the demand for nurses to practice within the aged care area. This raises serious concerns in light of the negative attitudes that Registered Nurses and undergraduate nursing students hold towards working with older people.

Methods.  This paper reports the results of a longitudinal study of undergraduate nursing students at the start ( n  = 793) and at the end ( n  = 524) of their nursing education programme.

Findings.  The findings support the literature in demonstrating that working with older people is the least preferred area of practice for students, and that its popularity actually declines during the education process. One interesting finding from this research suggests that part-time employment of student nurses in nursing homes can further influence students' negative attitudes.

Conclusions.  If nursing students are to continue working in aged care, strategies to address the potential detrimental impact need to be identified and developed as a matter of urgency.