Assessing Pre-Service Helping Professionals' Attitudes Toward Disability and Age
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It is clear that health care professionals training now for their careers will be working with a decidedly older population, as “baby boomers” age. In addition, there are approximately one billion people across the globe with some form of disability, around 15% of the world’s population. How prepared are healthcare workers of the future to work with elderly people or people with disabilities? What preconceived notions, or attitudes, do they have that can help or hinder their success in working with these populations? The best time to assess these attitudes is while they are training to become those healthcare workers, i.e., the pre-service period. This study uses an approach to assessing innermost feelings that people have about age and disability, asking pre-service health care professionals (NIU students) to complete a sorting exercise that measures truthful opinions toward disabled/abled persons and young/old persons. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) accomplishes that honesty by providing the participants with images that correlate with abled/disabled and young/old persons and asking them to sort the items, along with positively or negatively connoted words (evaluations/stereotypes). The theory is that it is easier (and thereby faster) to make a response when the items that are more closely related share the same response key (disabled and good, old and bad, etc.). Results of this study may point to training needs in areas identified by negative associations with either disability or age.