COVID-19 and undergraduate education in geriatric medicine: A mixed-methods study of medical students’ attitudes towards older people during a global pandemic

Grace Pearson*, Anisha Cullen (Contributor), Sabi M Redwood (Contributor), Yoav Ben-Shlomo (Contributor), Emily J Henderson (Contributor)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Abstract

18 Downloads (Pure)


Key messages
One third of students surveyed felt more positively towards older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those receiving more undergraduate experience in geriatrics (18 weeks versus 4 weeks) were twice as likely to report a positive attitudinal change. Undergraduate training offers a key opportunity to positively influence the attitudes of tomorrow’s doctors and promote geriatric medicine.

We know that attitudes matter in the practice medicine and ageism can have a deleterious effects on the healthcare of older adults, and on the recruitment of specialist geriatricians. We have used mixed methods to explore what impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on medical students’ attitudes towards older people given negative rhetoric about societal sacrifices to protect older and vulnerable people.

In 2020, Bristol Medical School switched from a 4-week geriatrics placement (MB16) to 18 weeks (MB21). We invited students from MB16 and MB21 who had completed their geriatrics placements to participate in a survey that captured attitudinal and demographic information. We undertook multivariable logistic regression analysis to look at predictors of positive attitudinal change. Twelve students volunteered to participate in qualitative focus groups; anonymised transcripts were analysed using a framework approach.

We received 284 responses: 115 from MB16 and 169 from MB21 (43% and 79% response rate respectively). We found 36.4% (95%CI 30.2-42.9%) reported that the pandemic had made them feel more positively towards older adults. MB21 students had a multivariable odds ratio of 2.0 (95%CI 1.1-3.6, p=0.03) of reporting a positive change compared to MB16 students after adjustment. We identified qualitative themes around altruism, inter-generational resentment, accelerated aging and loneliness.

Despite a global pandemic, a third of students reported a positive change in their attitude towards older people, which was most marked for students receiving a longer duration of teaching in geriatric medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2022
EventTransform MedEd 2022: Adaptation, Innovation, Transformation - London, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 Nov 202212 Nov 2022


ConferenceTransform MedEd 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address

Structured keywords

  • Ageing and Movement Research Group


Dive into the research topics of 'COVID-19 and undergraduate education in geriatric medicine: A mixed-methods study of medical students’ attitudes towards older people during a global pandemic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this