Above: Charles Darwin University PhD graduate Dr Jeanine Tweedie explored the experiences of nursing students and gerontology nursing

A PhD graduate has found what advocates of person-centred care and enablement have long known, that people provide better care when they know the life story of the older person they are caring for. 

Dr Jeanine Tweedie, who received her doctorate at a Charles Darwin University graduation ceremony in Darwin this week, investigated the experiences of nursing students and gerontology nursing for her thesis.

Nursing students’ attitudes often changed after they listened to elderly patients tell their life stories, Dr Tweedie found. 

“Importantly, this improves the way they provide nursing care to elders,” Dr Tweedie said.

“They see elders as individuals which results in care that is more focussed on the elders’ actual needs rather than on assumptions of what was needed.”

Sometimes nurses assume elders are not capable of knowing what is best and will care for them, rather than work with them to meet particular needs, she said.

Dr Tweedie interviewed 15 Baccalaureate nursing students in Hawai’i for her thesis, Listening to elders’ stories: Transforming nursing students’ perceptions about gerontology nursing.

She analysed their narratives for themes against a conceptual framework of cultural safety, which is being incorporated into nursing internationally.

Many nursing students held ageist attitudes towards elders, which were based on negative stereotypes that dependency and functional loss were due to ageing, Dr Tweedie said.

“This can contribute to a belief that dependence and loss of function are inevitable when more often this is due to illness.”

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