Nursing students’ knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease

Lisa Kirk Wiese, Christine Lynn Williams


Objective: Every 66 seconds a U.S. resident develops Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Future nurses will be caring for the rapidly escalating number of adults turning 65, yet information regarding nursing students’ knowledge about the age-related disease of Alzheimer’s is limited. The purpose of this study was to examine 102 Florida baccalaureate nursing students’ basic and advanced AD knowledge.

Methods: A descriptive design using two AD knowledge measures and analysis using paired samples t-test were employed.

Results: Although the setting was a region of the U.S. with the highest percentage of older adults, knowledge deficits regarding age-related Alzheimer’s disease were striking. Students’ basic knowledge was significantly higher than their advanced AD knowledge (t(101) = 2.28, p = .027). Only 31% of students identified that high cholesterol may increase risk. Just 20% of students correctly answered that exercise does not prevent AD. About 25% correctly responded that the average life expectancy after the onset of AD is 6-12 years. Only 2% of nursing students correctly identified that persons with AD experience stress from disease-related symptoms. Overall, less than 50% of students correctly answered any item on the measure designed for use among health care providers.

Conclusions: To better prepare nursing students to care for the increasing numbers of older adults facing risk of AD, updated curricula targeting dementia-related illnesses are essential. Information is offered regarding current state of the science resources of benefit to faculty, students, and practicing nurses, such as experiential learning and Hartford Institute of Geriatric Nursing collaborative programs.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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