A survey of student nurses, conducted by the University of Alberta along with McMaster University and Dalhousie University, showed that while most of the students understand that poverty decreases access to resources and conditions that facilitate good health, they also believe they have limited exposure to poverty through their academic courses. The results are published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.
While the students are taught in class about the issues surrounding poverty, they sometimes have difficulty grasping the dynamics and complexities of it, said Dr. Linda Reutter, a professor of nursing at the University of Alberta, and one of the lead authors on the study.
"Many people do not really understand the societal factors that contribute to the causes and effects of poverty. It is not uncommon to encounter negative attitudes toward the poor, even in our classes. There are a lot of myths and stereotypes. Nurses--and other health care workers--may blame the poor for their situations. They may say that poor people do not spend their money wisely, when they don't understand that some behaviours, such as smoking for example, might be coping strategies to manage the stress experienced by the poor in their daily lives," Dr. Reutter said.
Misconceptions about poverty that lead to insensitive care may prevent the poor from seeking the help they require from front-line health-care workers, according to Reutter and her fellow researchers. "They don't feel the worker really understands where they are coming from."
The 59-question survey of 740 basic baccalaureate nursing students was conducted in the three universities in 200
Contact: Bev Betkowski
University of Alberta