Introduction: Training of future physicians in the care of elderly patients will need to evolve in accordance with the exponential increase of elderly patients, but some may have preconceived attitudes affecting their management. This study determined medical students’ attitudes towards older people and their willingness to consider a career in Geriatric Medicine.Materials and Methods: All 250 first-year medical students, prior to any formal clinical exposure at the National University of Singapore School of Medicine, were asked to participate voluntarily in the study based on the UCLA Geriatrics Attitudes Scale. The 14-item questionnaire consisted of a mixture of positively and negatively worded questions answered on a 5-point Likert scale. A fifteenth question enquired about their willingness to consider Geriatric Medicine as a potential career choice. Results: The mean UCLA attitudes score was 3.58 [±standard deviation (SD), 0.41] suggesting a generally positive attitude. There was a strong association between attitude scores and willingness to consider Geriatric Medicine as a career (R = 0.48, P <001). However, only one third of the cohort was willing to consider a career in Geriatric Medicine. There was no difference in attitude scores between male and female students, but females were significantly more likely to consider Geriatric Medicine as a potential career choice. Conclusion: First-year medical students in Singapore have a generally positive attitude towards older people, although only 1 in 3 persons was willing to consider a career in Geriatric Medicine. Higher attitude scores and female gender were the main predictors of willingness to consider a career in Geriatric Medicine.
With the exponential increase in the elderly population in Singapore, the training of young physicians of tomorrow in the care of elderly patients will need to change accordingly. A potential way to fulfill this need is to increase the number of specialists proportionately to manage elderly patients effectively.
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