Knowledge and attitude of nursing students regarding intimacy and sexuality of older adults: a cross-sectional international study.
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ABSTRACT Background. Although sexual problems are frequent among older adults, they are infrequently discussed by professionals. Nursing students, as future professionals, can make an important contribution by discussing intimacy and sexuality (I&S) with older adults. In order to improve their competence in discussing I&S, current levels of knowledge and attitude needs exploration. Aim. To investigate i) knowledge and attitude of nursing students regarding I&S of older adults, ii) difference in knowledge and attitude between Canadian and Dutch students and in different years of study and iii) frequency of discussing I&S with older adults. Methods. The Ageing Sexual Knowledge and Attitudes Scale was distributed among Canadian and Dutch nursing students. Furthermore, demographics and frequencies were asked. Data was analyzed using parametric tests in SPSS. Results. In total, 776 students participated. The mean knowledge-score was 43.7 (SD=9.0), the mean attitude-score 63.4 (SD=16.6). Dutch students had significant less knowledge and more negative attitudes compared to Canadian students (p<0.01). Unlike attitude, the level of knowledge differed significantly per year of study: first year students had the lowest and third year students the highest levels. Most students stated they ‘never’ or ‘once’ discussed I&S with older adults (53.7%-12.9%, respectively). Reasons to avoid talking were feelings of ‘not being the right person’ (17.2%) and ‘incompetence’ (13.8%). Conclusion. Nursing students had moderate knowledge and positive attitudes toward older adults’ I&S. The knowledge and attitude levels were lower in Dutch students compared to Canadian. This should be interpreted carefully due to possible selection bias. The knowledge-level differed per year of study. Only a minority discussed I&S with older adults. Implications. Moderate knowledge and positive attitudes do not mean that I&S is discussed with older adults. To ensure students feel responsible and competent, interventions should focus on continuous knowledge dissemination, role clarification and modelling.