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Career in Geriatrics

Everything you Need to Know about Pursuing a Career in Geriatrics

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Are you often concerned about healthcare for older populations? Are you a compassionate individual who is interest in learning about people’s histories? Are you closely connected to an older adult or caregiver in your own life? Do you have a desire to provide continuing care for older adults? Chances are, you would thrive in a career in Geriatrics.

Our ever-increasing lifespan necessitates shedding light on the kind of health care we need as we age. Which is where Geriatrics steps in – the healthcare specialty devoted to providing holistic care for patients over the age of 65. If you are interested about pursuing a career in in this highly fulfilling and rewarding specialty, we have put together a detailed guide to help you along in your journey.

What is a Geriatrician?

A geriatrician is a medical doctor who specializes in the care and treatment of older adults, typically those aged 65 and above. Their primary focus is on addressing the unique healthcare needs of elderly patients, who often have complex medical conditions and may be experiencing multiple age-related issues.

Geriatricians are trained to understand the physical, mental, and social aspects of aging, and they work to optimize the overall well-being and quality of life for their patients. They assess and manage conditions such as dementia, delirium, falls, polypharmacy (taking multiple medications), osteoporosis, frailty, incontinence, and mobility issues, among others. Geriatricians also play a crucial role in coordinating care across various healthcare providers and settings, including nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities. Their holistic approach encompasses not just treating diseases but also promoting healthy aging through preventive measures, patient education, and support for caregivers. With their specialized expertise, geriatricians strive to help older adults maintain independence, dignity, and vitality as they navigate the later stages of life.

What Are the Tasks of a Geriatrician?

The day-to-day life of a geriatrician resembles that of a family medicine physician in many ways. The exception, however, is that their patients are over the age of 65. The following are some examples of geriatricians’ work:

  • Preventive Care: To preserve and enhance older adults’ health, geriatricians strongly emphasize preventative medical treatment, which includes immunizations, health screenings, and lifestyle modifications.
  • Comprehensive Health Assessments: Geriatricians conduct thorough evaluations of older adults to assess their overall health status, including physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. They may use tools such as geriatric assessments to identify areas of concern and develop tailored care plans.
  • Managing Multiple Chronic Conditions: Many older adults have multiple chronic health conditions that require careful management. Geriatricians are skilled at coordinating treatment plans for conditions like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and osteoarthritis to optimize health outcomes while minimizing medication interactions and side effects.
  • Fall Prevention: Falls are a significant risk for older adults and can lead to serious injuries and loss of independence. Geriatricians assess factors contributing to fall risk, such as balance issues, vision problems, and medication side effects, and implement strategies to reduce the likelihood of falls through exercise programs, environmental modifications, and medication adjustments.
  • Memory Care: Geriatricians specialize in diagnosing and managing cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. They work closely with patients and their families to develop care plans that address cognitive decline, provide support services, and enhance quality of life for both patients and caregivers.
  • Palliative and End-of-Life Care: Geriatricians play a vital role in providing compassionate care for older adults with advanced illness, focusing on symptom management, pain relief, and emotional support. They work collaboratively with other healthcare providers to ensure that patients receive care aligned with their goals and values, whether that involves aggressive treatment or palliative care.
  • Geriatric Mental Health: Mental health issues are common among older adults, including depression, anxiety, and late-life psychosis. Geriatricians are trained to recognize and address these mental health concerns, often in collaboration with psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, to improve overall well-being and quality of life.

The Path to Becoming a Geriatric Doctor?

Becoming a geriatrician is a long and arduous path, but one that reaps great rewards. You need years of education, sit through competitive exams, and complete extensive training to become a successful geriatrician. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you get started.

Step 1: Obtain a college bachelor’s degree

First things first, you need to earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, preferably in a science-related major. While there isn’t a specific undergraduate major required for medical school, AMCC suggests taking courses in biology, chemistry, organic chemistry and English to be able to meet medical school admission requirements.

Step 2: Complete Medical School

Then, you need to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and apply to an accredited medical school to earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. Medical school typically takes four years to complete and includes both classroom instruction and clinical rotations. During medical school, you’ll learn about various medical specialties, including geriatrics. We suggest that you look into medical schools that either specialize in geriatrics or in fields pertaining to the needs of aging patients, such as oncology or neurology.

Step 3: Complete Residency Training and Fellowship

After graduating from medical school, students need to pass the three parts of the licensing exam known as the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), after which they can complete a residency program in internal medicine or family medicine, at hospital or clinic that has a relationship with your medical school. Residency training typically lasts three years and provides comprehensive training in diagnosing and treating adult patients. During your residency, you’ll have the opportunity to work with older adults and gain experience in geriatric medicine.

While not always required, completing a fellowship in geriatric medicine can provide specialized training in caring for elderly patients. Geriatric medicine fellowships typically last one to two years and involve advanced clinical training in areas such as geriatric assessment, chronic disease management, palliative care, and end-of-life care.

Step 4: Get Board Certified

After completing your residency and/or fellowship training, become board certified in geriatric medicine by passing the board examination administered by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) or the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM), depending on your primary specialty. Obtain a medical license to practice medicine in your state or country. Licensure requirements vary by location but generally involve passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX), completing residency training, and meeting other state-specific requirements.

Step 5: Continuing Education

Stay up-to-date with advances in geriatric medicine by participating in continuing medical education (CME) activities, attending conferences, and engaging in lifelong learning opportunities. Consider pursuing additional certifications or training in areas such as hospice and palliative care, geriatric psychiatry, or nursing home care to further specialize your practice in geriatric medicine.

How long is Geriatrics fellowship?

A Geriatrics fellowship typically lasts one to two years, depending on the program and whether it includes additional research or academic components. During the fellowship, physicians receive advanced training in the specialized care of older adults, including comprehensive geriatric assessment, management of multiple chronic conditions, palliative care, end-of-life care, and other geriatric-specific issues. Fellowship training provides hands-on clinical experience, exposure to interdisciplinary care teams, and opportunities for research and scholarly activities in the field of geriatric medicine.

Is a Career in Geriatrics Worth it?

Geriatric medicine is a difficult but rewarding profession. Healthcare workers in the geriatrics field often experience personal and professional satisfaction from making a positive impact on the health and quality of life of their patients. Not to mention, Geriatrics has been ranked as one of the most fulfilling health professions in various surveys. Many geriatricians find fulfillment in building long-term relationships with their patients, addressing complex medical and social issues, and advocating for the needs of older adults.

The demand for geriatric medicine is also increasing due to the aging population worldwide. As the elderly population continues to grow, there is a growing need for healthcare professionals with expertise in geriatric care. This high demand translates into greater job security and career opportunities for geriatricians. As a result, geriatricians often enjoy competitive salaries, and the median salary tends to increase with experience. While salaries can vary depending on factors such as location, setting (e.g., academic medical center, private practice), and level of experience, geriatric medicine offers financial stability for many practitioners. So, all in all, a career in geriatrics in worth the efforts.

How much do Geriatricians make on Average?

The average Physician – Geriatrics salary in the United States is $220,313 as of 2024, but the range typically falls between $202,644 and $240,702. Salaries can vary widely depending on many factors, such as education, certifications, additional skills, the number of years you have spent in your profession, etc.

Ready to get started in medicine?

Now that you know more about the education and training needed to become a geriatrician, you may want to get started on your career in medicine by applying to an accredited medical school like the Windsor University School of Medicine. Apply here or contact our admissions staff for further help!

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