Working with Older Populations: A Career in Geriatrics

May 16, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Prior to observing orthopedic surgery As the Baby Boomer generation has started to reach the age of retirement, the need for medical professionals who provide care and therapy to the elderly is becoming increasingly urgent.  Geriatrics is a field of medicine dedicated to meeting the physical, mental, and emotional needs of aging populations. If you are interested in a career working with our geriatric population, consider the following options.

Know Your Patients

Before you choose a career in geriatrics, know what you’ll be facing when you interact with and care for elderly patients.  The medical issues of the elderly are sometimes different from those of younger patients, though there is often an overlap.  Geriatric care involves managing any disabilities that patient might have due to accident, injury, or disease. Keeping geriatric patients mobile as long as possible is a top priority.  Chronic conditions, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, must also be managed.  Additionally, end of life care is a critical component of geriatrics, helping the elderly and their families come to terms with a patient’s impending death and providing care that will keep the patient comfortable and alert till the end. Those medical professionals who specialize in geriatric care must be able to communicate with a diverse group of people, since family members of patients are just as involved with treatment and care as the patient is him or herself.

Career Options in Geriatrics

If you want to be a geriatric medical professional, you can select from a number of choices within this field:

Geriatrician: Physicians can specialize in caring for the elderly.  Typically, these doctors become board-certified in Internal Medicine and then receive an additional credential to practice gerontology.

Geriatric Nurse: Only 1% of all nurses are certified in geriatric care, making this an in-demand career as the American population continues to age.  Geriatric nurses work as part of a health care team to provide care to elderly patients.  They typically perform initial assessments of cognition, discuss concerns about mobility, sensory functions, and sleeping patterns.  Geriatric nurses work in partnership with family members to make sure the patient understands medical treatments, prescription schedules, and has access to services in the home.

Geriatric Psychiatrist: As people age, their mental state undergoes tremendous changes.  They often require the special attention of a psychiatrist to manage the transition.  This is where the expertise of a geriatric psychiatrist comes in.  This career allows you to diagnose depression and anxiety in older patients and provide them with treatments to improve their quality of life.

Work Locations

Those who work in geriatrics have the opportunity to work in a range of locations, including hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, clinics, assisted-living facilities, and private practices.  In addition, there are a number of states where geriatric care is in high demand, such as Florida, New York, California, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.  If you are bilingual, this skill will increase your chances of a successful career in geriatrics.

A career in geriatrics is not for everyone.  It takes a sensitive, patient, compassionate individual to work with this population.  However, as the demand for geriatric care grows, this field will provide tremendous employment opportunities for those who want to make a difference in the lives of patients.


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.