Attitudes of nurse professionals and nursing students towards children with disabilities. Do nurses really overcome children's physical and mental handicaps?

V Matziou, P Galanis, C Tsoumakas, E Gymnopoulou, P Perdikaris, H Brokalaki
International Nursing Review 2009, 56 (4): 456-60

BACKGROUND: Many health professionals and nurses, who are involved in the care of disabled children, do not exhibit the essential sensitivity and appropriate attitudes towards them, resulting in a poor quality of nursing care.

AIM: The objective of this study was to investigate the attitudes of nurse professionals (paediatric nurses) and nursing students towards disabled children.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: The present study is a comparative study. The sample consisted of 228 first-year nursing students, 90 post-diploma nurses attending MSc degree course and 123 nurse professionals who are employed in paediatric hospitals. After obtaining permission from the hospitals and the educational settings and informing about the subjects of the study, data were collected using the paediatric Attitude Towards Disabled Person Scale (ATDP).

RESULTS: Overall nurses' attitudes appeared to be poor (mean ATDP score 61.7 +/- 14.2). However, the post-diploma nurses had significantly higher ATDP scores than first-year students and paediatric nurses (P < 0.001). In addition, first-year students had significantly higher scores than paediatric nurses (P = 0.047). Across the sample, females hold significantly more positive attitudes than males (F = 9.5, P = 0.002), while age did not have any significant effect.

CONCLUSIONS: Carefully designed curricula can influence the attitudes of nursing students towards children with disabilities. Special courses for treating disabled children should be integrated to the basic nursing studies. Moreover, continuing hospital education can change paediatric nurses' attitudes towards children with disabilities.

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