The Discipline: What Is Geriatrics and What Does a Geriatrician Do?
Geriatric medicine is a type of practice within internal medicine that focuses on the care of older patients. Those who practice geriatric medicine (“geriatricians”) are specifically trained in the normal and abnormal physiologic and psychosocial changes associated with aging, and to recognize the differences in presentation of disease relative to normal aging. Geriatricians also recognize the importance of maintaining functional independence in older patients and focus on providing preventive interventions.
Most geriatricians are primary care physicians who desire additional training and skills focused on an older patient population. The clinical settings in which geriatric medicine is practiced are quite varied. Many geriatricians continue in primary care practice, and geriatrics training uniquely equips clinicians for work in rehabilitation, extended care, and home health settings. Geriatricians may also provide consultative services to other physicians or health care institutions.
Geriatric physicians focus on all aspects of health care and work as part of a health care team to address issues that affect the elderly. Medical professionals who work with geriatricians include nurses, social workers, nutritionists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, and geriatric psychiatrists. The geriatric health care team focuses on many aspects of the patient’s life, including his or her social support (e.g., spouse, children, other relatives), living conditions and home life, and community.
Geriatricians provide care in a number of settings. They see patients in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, clinics, and physician offices, and often provide or manage in-home care.
Geriatric fellowship training requires one year of training beyond general internal medicine residency, which prepares them for board certification in geriatrics.
Major Professional Societies
American Geriatrics Society
The Gerontological Society of America
Source: American College of Physicians