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Attitudes of nurses in a general hospital towards people with learning disabilities: influences of contact, and graduate-non-graduate status, a comparative study

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A review of the literature suggests people with learning disabilities are viewed negatively by others in society. Such negative views have also been found among many health care professionals, including nurses. This study measured the attitudes of a randomly selected sample of nurses in a general hospital (n=31) towards people with learning disabilities. The study involved a triangulation approach utilizing a Likert scale attitude measurement questionnaire. Two comparisons between subjects in the study were undertaken - a comparison of the attitudes of graduate nurses and those who were non-graduates; a comparison between nurses who had most contact, and those who had least contact with people who have learning disabilities. From the sample of 31 nurses, 10 subjects were selected for more in-depth interviews which were tape recorded, transcribed and, using the process of `content analysis', quantified.

Findings suggest the attitudes held by the total sample towards people with learning disabilities were more negative than would be expected from those in a caring profession. The graduate nurses were found to be more positive in their perceived attitudes towards people with learning disabilities than non-graduate nurses. Nurses in the sample who had high contact were found to have more positive attitudes than nurses who had lower amounts of contact with people who had learning disabilities.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Lecturer in Nursing 2: Professor of Community Health Nursing & Co-ordinator of Nursing, School of Health Sciences, University of Ulster, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland

Publication date: 01 December 1996

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