General practitioners' and nurses' perceived roles, attitudes and stressors in the management of people with dementia



McIntosh IB, Swanson V, Power KG & Rae C (1999) General practitioners' and nurses' perceived roles, attitudes and stressors in the management of people with dementia. Health Bulletin, 57 (1), pp. 35-43.

BACKGROUND: GPs and nurses play a major role in dementia care. Negative attitudes and uncertainties may be common sources of stress in both professions. Specific anxieties related to dementia management in primary care need to be identified. AIM: To assess whether dementia care is a stress-provoking experience and examine perceived roles, attitudes, and anxieties for GPs and nurses working with people with dementia and their informal family carers. DESIGN: A structured self-report questionnaire administered opportunistically to GPs and nurses attending dementia education seminars. RESULTS: 298 doctors and 487 nurses participated (response rate 98%). Over half dealing with people with dementia and their carers stressful. GPs reported more negative attitudes to dementia care than nurses (p < 0.001), and felt that professionally they could offer less to people with dementia (p < 0.001) and carers (p < 0.05) than nurses, reporting more difficulties with aspects of dementia care. For GPs and nurses, factors outwith their own profession's 'traditional' role were more stressful, e.g. responding to patients' behavioural (p < 0.001) and social problems (p < 0.001) were stressful for a greater proportion of GPs than nurses. Responding to patients' psychiatric problems was more stressful for nurses than GPs (p < 0.05). More GPs than in previous studies reported routinely administering tests of memory (70%) and depression (58%) in diagnosis. CONCLUSION: Negative attitudes towards dementia care are associated with increased stress for GPs and nurses. Difficulties and uncertainties in these professional roles should be addressed by education in dementia management and improved awareness of available services and resources for people with dementia and their carers.

Health Bulletin: Volume 57, Issue 1

Publication date31/01/1999
PublisherScottish Office, Department of Health

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Professor Vivien Swanson

Professor Vivien Swanson

Professor, Psychology