Shadowing a DoctorJanuary 15, 2014
A Geriatrician is a medical doctor who specialises in caring for older patients. Most geriatricians begin their careers as general practitioners, treating patients across all ages. Many obtain certification in family or internal medicine. Those who wish to become board certified in geriatric medicine will then pursue additional training focused on the special health needs of older patients.
As individuals age, their bodies undergo several changes. Bones become increasingly more brittle. The immune system gets compromised and begins to function less efficiently. Muscles begin to lose their tone. With all of these progressive but inevitable changes, older people are at higher risk of suffering from various acute as well as chronic health problems. Caring for these older patients is the goal of the geriatrician.
Many older people, particularly those over the age of 65 have multiple health concerns and are at greater risk of several different types of disease and injury. This is also the fastest-growing patient population.
As a geriatrician, you will be responsible for maintaining the well-being and independent functioning of your patients. Some of your job functions will include diagnosis and treatment of conditions common with age, such as arthritis, bone loss, Parkinson’s, lung and heart disease, vision and hearing impairment, Alzheimer’s disease and incontinence. If a geriatrician suspects any type of serious health issue, they refer the patient to a specialist, but will often continue to contribute to the patient’s care.
Geriatricians usually work alongside other health professionals who are also dedicated to treating older patients. A typically care team may include geriatric nurses, physical therapists, mental health professionals, occupational therapists and pharmacists.
Because older people take a variety of pills regularly, geriatricians must also monitor their patients closely for side effects of prescribed medications and be aware of potential drug interactions. They also balance the potential benefit of a treatment against the possible risks.
Geriatricians pay close heed to the trends in the physical and mental functioning of their patients and are often the first to recognize when a patient is no longer able to live independently.
Geriatricians typically work in hospitals, private practices, long-term care facilities and group practices. While there are several common challenges and stressors that all healthcare professionals face, geriatricians are usually under added pressure because of the inescapable fact that their patients are not always going to get better no matter what they do. For anyone choosing this specialty, it is very important to be mentally and emotionally prepared to deal with mental and physical decline and the death of their patients.
To practice as a geriatrician, you must 4 years of medical school followed by a 3-year residency, usually in internal or family medicine. After you’ve completed your residency, you may practice for a while, or apply directly to a geriatric medicine fellowship program.
During your geriatric training, you will learn about the various conditions and risks that affect the elderly. You will study the impact of aging on the human body and mind and learn different techniques for measuring and monitoring functional decline as their patient’s age progresses. During your fellowship, you will learn to assess potential health problems and work with elderly patients while mastering the “soft skills” that are essential to provide compassionate, effective care.
The average annual salary of a geriatrician in the UK ranges from about £45,000 to £69,500.