Limited knowledge of dementia among health professionals is a well-documented barrier to optimal care. This study examined the self-perceived challenges with dementia care and learning needs among primary care clinicians and assessed whether these were associated with years of practice and perceived preparedness for dementia care.
Participants were multi-disciplinary clinicians attending a 5-day team-based dementia education program and physicians attending a similar condensed continuing medical education workshop. Pre-education, they completed an online survey in which they rated (5-point scales): interest in learning about various dementia-related topics, perceived challenges with various dementia-related practice activities and preparedness for dementia care, provided additional dementia-related topics of interest, number of years in clinical practice, and discipline.
Thirteen hundred surveys were completed across both education programs. Mean ratings of preparedness for dementia care across all respondents reflected that they felt somewhat prepared for dementia care. Challenge ratings varied from low to very challenging and mean ratings reflected a high level of interest in learning more about all of the dementia-related topics; significant differences between disciplines in these ratings were identified. In most cases, perceived challenges and learning needs were not correlated with number of years in clinical practice, but in some cases lower ratings of preparedness for dementia care were associated with higher ratings of the challenges of dementia care.
Clinicians perceived that their formal education had not prepared them well for managing dementia and desired more knowledge in all topic areas, regardless of years in practice. Implications for education are discussed.