European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 39–48 | Cite as

Ageism among physicians, nurses, and social workers: findings from a qualitative study

  • Aya Ben-Harush
  • Sharon Shiovitz-Ezra
  • Israel Doron
  • Sara Alon
  • Arthur Leibovitz
  • Hava Golander
  • Yafa Haron
  • Liat Ayalon
Original Investigation


This study investigated ageism among healthcare professionals in various therapeutic settings in Israel. Using a qualitative approach, the current study aimed to examine similarities and differences across healthcare disciplines. Three focus groups were conducted with physicians, nurses, and social workers. Data from each focus group were analyzed separately, and then commonalities and differences across the groups were evaluated. Three main themes relating to older adults emerged from the data. The first theme pertains to perceived difficulties that healthcare professionals experience in working with older adults and their family members; the second focuses on invisibility and discriminatory communication patterns; and the third theme relates to provision of inappropriate care to older adults. Similarities and differences across the three disciplines were found. The differences related mainly to the examples provided for manifestations of ageism in the healthcare system. Provision of inadequate treatment to older adults due to their age appeared to be the most complex theme, and is discussed at length in the Discussion. Briefly, the complexity stems from the fact that although some behaviors can be clearly described as inappropriate and undesirable, other behaviors such as avoidance of invasive medical procedures for older patients raise ethical dilemmas. Potentially, avoidance of invasive medical treatment can be perceived as compassionate care rather than as undertreatment due to ageist perceptions. A related dilemma, i.e., longevity versus quality-of-life, is also discussed in light of the finding that the balance of these two aspects changes as patients grow old.


Ageism Physicians Nurses Social workers Qualitative research Focus groups 



The study was funded by the Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research [#10/102/a]. The study is partially supported by the COST Action IS1402.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aya Ben-Harush
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sharon Shiovitz-Ezra
    • 3
  • Israel Doron
    • 4
  • Sara Alon
    • 5
  • Arthur Leibovitz
    • 6
  • Hava Golander
    • 7
  • Yafa Haron
    • 8
  • Liat Ayalon
    • 9
  1. 1.The Department of Social WorkRuppin Academic CenterEmek HeferIsrael
  2. 2.The Early Childhood Education ProgramThe David Yellin Academic College of EducationJerusalemIsrael
  3. 3.Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social WelfareThe Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael
  4. 4.Department of GerontologyUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael
  5. 5.ESHEL-JointJerusalemIsrael
  6. 6.Internal Medicine-Geriatrics, Epidemiology and PreventionTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael
  7. 7.The Department of Nursing, The Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions, Sackler Faculty of MedicineTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael
  8. 8.Nursing DivisionMinistry of HealthJerusalemIsrael
  9. 9.Gabi and Louis Weisfeld School of Social Work, Faculty of Social SciencesBar-Ilan UniversityRamat GanIsrael

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