Though the U.S. population is aging rapidly--and living longer--few young doctors are going into geriatrics. This is creating a crisis in care for the elderly, with only one geriatrician available per 5000 patients, according to The New York Times. While medical students enjoy geriatrics rotations, they're overwhelmingly choosing to specialize in more glamorous, higher-tech fields such as cardiology and oncology, the Times reports. They're also opting for higher incomes--while orthopedic surgeons and radiologists may make $400,000 annually, geriatricians can expect to make a comparatively modest $150,000 per year (after all, much of the patient and family hand-holding geriatricians do isn't reimbursed). As a result, only nine out of 145 U.S. medical schools offer geriatrics programs.
To address this shortage, medical schools are beginning to train a larger cohort of geriatric nurse practitioners, and a scant few (with the help of grant dollars) are actually expanding their geriatrics programs. In some cases, schools are also having elderly consumers visit with medical school patients to offer their perspective and feedback. Meanwhile, hospitals have begun to offer geriatric seminars for their doctors, and others are identifying nurses with a special "feel" for working with the elderly.
Get more information on the geriatrician shortage:
- read this piece in The New York Times
If Medicare doesn't pay enough, geriatricians may have to close their practices, AMA head says. Article