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Reactions of nurses and therapists in mainstream health services to contact with people who have learning disabilities

McConkey, Roy; Truesdale, Marie


Roy McConkey

Marie Truesdale


Government policy in the United Kingdom is to make the National Health Service accessible to all citizens including those who hitherto may have relied on specialist services. It is recognised that the attitudes of health professionals can be a major influence in making this happen. To date there has been a paucity of research studies involving nurses and therapists; two of the largest groupings of health care workers. The present study contrasted the reactions of nurses and therapists to their contact with people who have learning disabilities, with those of staff working in specialist services for this client group, and with students who are not involved in health services. Over 1,000 respondents - mainly University students on undergraduate or post-graduate courses - completed a written questionnaire. Although nurses and therapists had significantly less contact with people who had learning disabilities during their work than did staff in specialist services, there were no differences in terms of contact in personal life. In both instances their contacts were higher than that reported for non-healthcare students. However both nurses and therapists were significantly less confident in working with a patient who had learning disabilities as opposed to one with physical disabilities. By contrast, willingness for social contacts did not vary across the four groups although respondents with previous personal contact were significantly more willing for this than those with no prior contact. The results confirm that the form of contact is a more salient variable on staff attitudes than contact per se. Hence, changed reactions are more likely to come about from successful contacts in a work rather than social environment. The implications are discussed for initial and post-qualifying training courses, especially for suitable placement experiences. Suggestions are made for future research that focuses on increasing the expertise and confidence of nurses and therapists in working with patients who have learning disabilities.


McConkey, R., & Truesdale, M. (2000). Reactions of nurses and therapists in mainstream health services to contact with people who have learning disabilities. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 32(1), 158-163.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2000-07
Deposit Date Feb 19, 2019
Journal Journal of Advanced Nursing
Print ISSN 0309-2402
Electronic ISSN 1365-2648
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 32
Issue 1
Pages 158-163
Keywords attitudes, experience, learning disability, nurses, therapists, university students, health policy, contacts, continuing education,
Public URL