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Keywords:

  • medical students;
  • attitudes;
  • older people;
  • education;
  • career aspirations

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the attitudes of first- and fourth-year medical students toward older people and the relationship between these attitudes and possible career choice. To examine the effects of an intensive geriatric medicine (GM) teaching program on these attitudes and career aspirations.

DESIGN: Observational study.

SETTING: University of Aberdeen.

PARTICIPANTS: Medical students.

MEASUREMENTS: In September 2005, first-year students (n=163) at the start of their undergraduate training completed a questionnaire based on the University of California at Los Angeles Geriatrics Attitudes Scale. Students were asked how likely they were to consider a career in GM in the future on a 5-point Likert scale. From the beginning of the academic year 2005/06, fourth-year students completed the same questionnaire before and after an intensive 8-day GM teaching program.

RESULTS: First-year medical students had a mean attitude score±standard deviation of 3.69±0.39. A more-positive attitude increased the likelihood of considering a career in GM (P<.001). Fourth-year students had better attitude scores than first-year students (3.86±0.36, P=.002). The GM teaching program did not significantly affect attitude scores but significantly increased the willingness to consider a career in GM by a mean 0.52 points (95% confidence interval=0.35–0.70, P<.001).

CONCLUSION: Attitudes toward older people were better in fourth-year than first-year medical students. A more-positive attitude toward older people increased the likelihood of considering a career in GM. An intensive 8-day course in GM had no significant effect on attitudes but increased the likelihood of fourth-year students considering a career in GM.