When working in the medical field, there are several specialties to choose from. Some focus on pediatrics to solely treat children. On the opposite end of the spectrum are geriatricians, doctors who specialize in treating older patients.
Geriatricians are important due to their knowledge of what affects older patients when it comes to ailments and treatments. As people grow older, certain conditions become more common and treatments need to factor in their overall health and age.
It’s not an easy job, but as people’s life expectancy continues to increase and medical science constantly advances, geriatricians become an even more important part of the healthcare system. Below is our guide on how to become a geriatrician.
What Is a Geriatrician?
A geriatrician is a medical professional who specializes in the treatment of older adults. The age generally referred to when it comes to geriatrics is 65 and older. However, in most instances, you won’t need a geriatrician until your 70s or even 80s.
Geriatric physicians specialize in their work to treat older patients who are more susceptible to different diseases. These older patients may also suffer from conditions that get worse as time progresses.
Geriatrician vs Gerontologist
A geriatric physician shares similarities to a gerontologist, but the occupations are very different. A gerontologist studies the effects of the aging process, such as how aging has an impact on a person’s mental, physical, and emotional health.
Geriatricians, on the other hand, take care of the health of older patients. While they do need some knowledge of what health effects older patients are more susceptible to, they do not study it in as broad a way as a gerontologist does. If you plan to work as a geriatric physician, it may be wise to take courses in gerontology or minor in it in college.
What Does a Geriatrician Do?
A geriatrician’s primary responsibility is to treat and manage the medical conditions of their older patients.
Because older patients tend to be more frail, subject to falling, and potentially suffer from conditions such as dementia or various heart conditions, geriatricians must take care to use medicine that treats the condition without causing adverse side effects.
Geriatricians may do work that aids in more than just serious conditions. These healthcare professionals also treat incontinence, frailty, mobility issues, and nutrition issues. They also provide medical advice and prescribe medications.
Those who specialize in geriatrics must keep a patient’s ailments and ongoing health in mind. It’s important to keep track of the patient’s current and past health and evaluate the potential medical problems that may arise with their increasing age.
Essential Geriatrician Skills
Geriatricians must have excellent communication skills when it comes to their patients. In many cases, a geriatrician works with multiple people, such as the patient’s nurse or caretaker and their family members. While working, they must communicate the current condition of their patients and the potential health problems they may encounter.
Patience is another important skill for geriatricians. Working with elderly patients, physicians may need to approach a situation slowly and more cautiously. They may also deal with difficulties when it comes to getting information a patient struggles to recall.
When it comes to a patient’s health, a geriatric physician must evaluate every aspect of the patient’s medical situation carefully. While some ailments and conditions may be due to a patient’s age, others could be symptoms of something life-threatening.
Empathy and Kindness
Working in geriatrics requires a high level of empathy and kindness. Your main job is to work in preventative care, but at any moment you may have to give unfortunate information to a patient and those close to them.
Due to the emotionally difficult information you may give at any moment, it’s important to have a high level of empathy with your patients at all times and understand their position and struggles.
Geriatrician Salary and Job Outlook
Salary.com reports that the median geriatrician salary is $201,346. The higher range of geriatricians earns upwards of $236,946. Varying factors determine a physician’s salary, such as education, skills, years of experience, certifications, and location.
Currently, the employment outlook for geriatricians is excellent. Due to the need for physicians to take care of a senior population that is steadily increasing, the employment rate of geriatricians is expected to grow in the next several years.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Geriatrician?
It takes 10 to 11 years to become a geriatrician after high school. This means earning your bachelor’s degree in four years, completing medical school in another four years, and completing a residency, which lasts at least three years.
Finally, you’ll take postsecondary training as a licensed physician where you spend one to two years in a geriatrics fellowship.
How to Become a Geriatrician: A Step by Step Guide
Years of study and experience is necessary to become a geriatrician. From choosing the right major in college to taking part in residency programs, there are several steps you must follow for this career.
Step 1: Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree
The first step to becoming a geriatrician is to earn your bachelor’s degree. After graduating from high school, you’ll complete undergraduate school. After receiving your bachelor’s degree, you’ll go to medical school, which means you should take premed courses in biology, chemistry, and physics.
Step 2: Graduate from Medical School
After you complete four years of schooling for your bachelor’s degree, the next step is to receive a medical education. Medical school takes an additional four years. For acceptance, applicants must pass the Medical College Admission Test, commonly known as the MCAT.
Step 3: Earn Your License
After completing medical school, the next step is to take the licensing exam. After passing the licensing exam, you’re able to work as a medical professional. Licensed professionals start their careers working in a residency, which takes three years to complete.
After completing the initial residency training, a person who wishes to work in geriatrics must participate in a two-year geriatric fellowship and receive specialized training.
Step 4: Education and Board Certification
It is not a requirement, but many geriatricians become board certified in geriatric medicine. This demonstrates the geriatrician’s ability and proves their expertise.
After earning all of the above credentials and gaining the necessary experience, a geriatrician must continue their education. Depending on the state, a geriatrician must renew their licenses, as well as their certifications.
Should You Become a Geriatrician in 2020?
As a career path, becoming a geriatric physician comes with several benefits. The field is consistently growing at a faster rate than the average position. There is also a high median wage with room to grow as you gain more experience.
However, it takes several years to become a geriatrician, which includes nearly a decade of education and years of additional training. If you have a love and passion for helping people and want to aid individuals in their old age, then becoming a geriatrician may be right for you.