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Worldwide, our older population is increasing, and thus a need for the provision of care to older people is also increasing. Aged care may be informal, provided by unpaid carers; or formal, provided or subsidised by government or other organisations. Yet working in aged care is often viewed as unattractive compared to other specialities in healthcare. Previous research has highlighted the benefits of aged care clinical placements on student attitudes, skills, and career aspirations. The authors of this study therefore investigated the influence of a single, learning experience in aged care on first-year speech and language therapy students at an Australian University. All students were required to participate in the visit (99 students) whereby each week, a group 10-12 students attended aged care centres for two hours, accompanied by a lecturer. The organisers of three community groups (run by older people living in the community) were approached regarding the possibility of hosting the visiting students. During the visit, students were provided an orientation, asked to complete a structured observation task, and then participate in a group session such as archery or light exercise. They then attended a debriefing session with their accompanying lecturer. Ninety students completed pre- and post-surveys and consented to participate in the study. Results demonstrated a significant positive change in the attitudes of the students towards older people following the visit, a significant increase in the confidence in communicating with older people, and a positive opinion on their experience of the visit. Data collected also indicated the experience positively influenced students career aspirations in relation to aged care. This simple and achievable exercise could help healthcare professionals and the aged care sector to dispel any negative assumptions and promote this area of practice as an attractive and exciting area of work.

A single, early aged care experience improves speech-language pathology students’ attitudes towards older people, communication confidence, and career aspirations in aged care.
Wallace SJ, Mathew A, Mandrusiak A, Hatton A.
Online ahead of print.
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Anna Volkmer

UCL, London, UK.

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