Acute-care nurses’ attitudes towards older patients: A literature review


Correspondence: Prof.Mary Courtney School of Nursing, Queensland University of Technology, Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove, Queensland 4059, Australia. Fax: +61 7 3864 3814. Email:


With increases in life expectancy and increasing numbers of older patients utilising the acute setting, attitudes of registered nurses caring for older people may affect the quality of care provided. This paper reviews recent research on positive and negative attitudes of acute-care nurses towards older people. Many negative attitudes reflect ageist stereotypes and knowledge deficits that significantly influence registered nurses’ practice and older patients’ quality of care. In the acute setting, older patients experience reduced independence, limited decision-making opportunities, increased probability of developing complications, little consideration of their ageing-related needs, limited health education and social isolation. Available instruments to measure attitudes towards and knowledge about older people, although reliable and valid, are outdated, country-specific and do not include either a patient focus or a caring perspective. This paper argues for the development and utilisation of a research instrument that includes both a patient focus and a caring dimension.