Geriatricians are medical doctors who specialize in the health issues of older adults. They are trained to diagnose and treat illnesses that are common among older patients—such as arthritis, dementia, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Geriatricians also commonly provide therapy services for chronic conditions like these.
These doctors are often the key members of their patients’ healthcare teams, coordinating services across different specialties to ensure that each patient gets all of the care they need. Some geriatricians may also serve as academic faculty members or researchers within their field.
Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a geriatrician and what it takes to become one yourself.
Geriatrician Job Duties
Geriatricians are responsible for the following duties:
- Diagnosing and treating a wide range of health conditions in patients 65 years of age or older
- Helping patients manage their own health care by providing advice and information
- Coordinating patient care with other medical providers, including hospitals, nursing homes, and social workers
- Developing treatment plans and treating common illnesses and injuries in older adults
- Prescribing medications to treat chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or inflammation of the joints.
- Performing routine lab work and diagnostic tests such as X-rays and CT scans as needed
- Referring patients to specialists when necessary such as orthopedists for bone pain, gastroenterologists for stomach problems, and ear nose and throat specialists for hearing loss or sinus infections
Geriatrician Salary & Outlook
The median annual wage for geriatricians is $197,838. Those earning higher wages tend to work in private practice, and the highest earners are making over $280,000 per year.
The demand for geriatricians is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade. As the population ages, older adults will require more medical care. Geriatricians can provide this care and focus on preventing illness and injury by providing preventive care.
Geriatrician Job Requirements
The requirements for a geriatrician are as follows:
Education: Geriatricians must earn a medical degree in geriatrics. Medical school generally lasts four years and requires students to complete a bachelor’s degree in another field before enrolling.
Training: Once geriatricians graduate from medical school, they must complete a residency program in which they spend three to five years learning how to diagnose and treat illnesses. They also spend time learning about the aging process and the various health concerns that come with it. Some hospitals and clinics offer continuing education programs for experienced geriatricians. These programs focus on specialty areas like end-of-life care and dementia, and help geriatricians stay up to date on the latest advancements in the field.
Certifications & Licenses: Geriatricians must be licensed to practice medicine. All states require candidates to pass a licensing exam.
These are the skills that you need to be a geriatrician:
Analytical skills: Geriatricians must be able to analyze information about symptoms and make recommendations based on their findings.
Interpersonal skills: This job requires interacting with patients, families, other healthcare professionals, as well as members of the community. Geriatricians should have great interpersonal skills.
Leadership skills: Geriatricians must be able to lead a team of professionals who are providing care for older adults and their families.
Patience: Older adults often require more time than younger patients, so you will need patience when working with them. Many patients may suffer from memory loss or confusion, which can cause them to act irrationally at times. Geriatricians must be patient when dealing with these issues.
Communication skills: Excellent communication skills are necessary because you will be required to communicate medical information to patients and their families, other doctors, nurses, and caretakers.
Strong organizational skills: This job requires the ability to organize records, follow strict procedures, and work within a set schedule.
Geriatrician Work Environment
Geriatricians usually work in hospitals, clinics, or private practices. They generally spend the bulk of their time working in an office, but they may also visit other locations to conduct patient assessments or make referrals.
Geriatricians often work with other health care professionals, such as nurses, physical therapists, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, and speech pathologists. Geriatricians are always working with patients who are sick or disabled in some way; therefore, their jobs can be emotionally draining. Geriatricians also have to spend time researching medical issues that concern the aging population.
Geriatrician Career Advancement
As geriatricians gain more experience in their field, they can choose to specialize in a particular area of medicine. Once you’ve chosen your specialization, you’ll be able to provide more advanced care and potentially better outcomes for your patients. You may also be able to reach out to the media about new treatments or developments in your specialty. If you prefer academia, you might move into a teaching role at the university level.
Here are three trends influencing how geriatricians work. Geriatricians will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Patients are Living Longer
With the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, geriatricians have seen an increased need for their services.
The elderly now account for about 34% of all Medicare spending, which is nearly twice as much as it was ten years ago.
However, this increase in demand has not been met with a proportional increase in available geriatric physicians to meet the growing need.
Changing Focus From Seniors to their Caregivers
As the baby boomer generation continues to age, more and more geriatricians are looking to shift their focus from senior citizens to their caregivers.
Geriatricians can help elderly patients and their families better navigate the process of aging by focusing on physical, emotional, and financial wellness—for example, they can work with clients to develop realistic retirement plans or design affordable caregiving options that allow seniors to remain independent while also ensuring they receive quality care.
Due to the growing population of elderly patients, the need for geriatricians is expected to increase in the coming years.
A number of new technologies are also expected to play a role in healthcare delivery, including caregiving robots that can provide companionship and comfort to elderly patients who may not have access to human caretakers or who simply prefer robotic companionship.
How to Become a Geriatrician
1. Planning Your Career Path
As a geriatrician, you will be caring for older adults who are often dealing with multiple chronic illnesses. The medical care of this population is complex and requires excellent communication skills as well as emotional support; it’s important to consider your personal capacity for these types of challenges before pursuing a career in this field.
If you’re interested in becoming a geriatrician, consider volunteering at a local hospital or clinic to get some hands-on experience. You can also talk with doctors who specialize in geriatrics to learn more about the field and determine if it is the right fit for you.
2. Writing a Resume
The best resumes for geriatricians should emphasize their knowledge of senior care and patient management. Your resume should also highlight your communication skills and medical experience.
List your work history and be sure to include any relevant details such as the number of patients you cared for, the age range of those patients, and any certifications you have received. To show your dedication to continuing education, include any courses or conferences you attended on geriatric medicine.
3. Applying for Jobs
If you’re looking for a job as a geriatrician, look for job postings in geriatric or general medical hospitals. Geriatricians often find themselves networking and volunteering their time at retirement homes and senior citizen centers. These are great places to increase your visibility while adding value to the community. If you are volunteering at an organization you want to work for, this will give potential employers the chance to understand your personality and how you might fit into their organization.
It can also be useful to join relevant professional organizations, both online and in person. Keeping an updated professional resume, and linking with professional groups in Geriatrics can improve your chances of finding opportunities.
4. Ace the Interview
Your interview will likely involve both behavioral and technical questions, so it’s important to be prepared. Think about what you’re looking for in a job and what you feel you can add to the geriatric care community.
Prepare answers that demonstrate compassion and that promote an understanding of how stressful this type of work can be. Think about your skills and abilities when answering behavioral questions, such as “How would you handle a patient who is resistant to taking his medications?” or “How would you deal with a situation where a patient’s family is not in agreement with your recommendations?”.
To prepare for technical questions, make sure you brush up on the appropriate medical terminology and review case studies.