Shadowing a DoctorSeptember 26, 2014
The increase in the ageing population across the UK has spurred a growing demand for healthcare that is especially attuned to the elderly. Gerontologists are healthcare practitioners who have undergone specialised training in treating diseases and problems specific to the elderly. These professionals help the aged to lead healthier, more active lives by receiving healthcare that is tailored to their unique requirements.
Across the UK, as in the rest of the world, older people have traditionally received the same treatment as other adults of all ages. However, several studies that have been done in more recent years have shown that the elderly have distinct healthcare needs that are actually quite different from other age groups. Physicians who choose to specialise in gerontology receive advanced clinical training in the entire spectrum of geriatrics. This includes not just the study of the biological aspects of ageing but also the social and psychological aspects, which are just as important. Sub-specialisation in gerontology can be done in several disciplines, ranging from internal and family medicine to nutrition, physical and occupational therapy, nursing, social work and pharmacy.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this field is that gerontologists often form close bonds with their patients as they care for the same patients over several years.
Gerontologists are generally employed by long-term care facilities, hospice services, hospitals, counselling centres, clinical practices, research universities and community and government agencies. Many also serve as consultants to healthcare facilities or private companies that are geared to the needs of older people. Those who work in home health services travel regularly to treat patients at home and meet with caregivers and family members.
Education & training
Many colleges, universities and career institutes now offer formal training in the science of ageing. This is a field that can be studied at many different levels. You can choose to do a two-year associate’s degree in this specialty, which would lead to an entry-level job in the field. If you are doing a four-year college degree you can opt to pursue a bachelor’s degree in gerontology.
A master’s, doctorate or professional degree is essential for those who wish to teach at the university level, conduct research or practice in certain fields such as medicine and pharmacy.
Essential attributes & skills
Not everybody has what it takes to care for the elderly. Older people present a lot of challenges, from difficulty speaking, hearing and understanding to mobility restrictions. If you are considering pursuing this specialty, the most important factor you need to consider is whether or not you have a genuine interest in and empathy for older people and whether you have the patience to deal with their slower movements and other difficulties.
Treating older people often requires the expertise of a wide range of specialists and it is equally important that you should like the idea of working closely with other professionals so that your patient receives the best care possible.
With the growing number of individuals entering their seventies and expected to enjoy relatively longer life-spans in comparison to their predecessors, the job prospects for gerontologists look excellent for the foreseeable future.