A Complex Challenge
Our ever-increasing lifespan presents new opportunities for our communities, but we run the risk of losing out on this momentum if we don’t think about the kind of health care we need as we age. That’s the expertise at the core of geriatrics, the healthcare specialty dedicated to new and smarter ways to approach care for older adults.
Geriatrics healthcare professionals are doctors, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, social workers, and many others expertly trained in caring for older men and women. Geriatrics healthcare professionals understand the unique health circumstances and preferences that come with aging. They also have expert training in collaborating with one another—a critical asset, since more than half of older Americans are managing two or more chronic conditions, and many older adults are making decisions with partners, family members, or other significant people involved in their care.
A Growing Field
The opportunities available to future geriatrics experts have never been greater—just consider career prospects for geriatricians (physicians with expert training in older adult care) as a case in point. We need about 20,000 geriatricians to staff up for the needs we have right now, for example, yet there are less than 7,300 certified geriatricians practicing nationwide. Knowing that we’ll need even more geriatricians—as many as 30,000 by 2030—we need creative and forward-thinking colleagues and approaches to expand the workforce. And we’re making progress—not just for physicians but for nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, social workers, and many others, too.
Some states are already offering loan forgiveness incentives for future geriatrics healthcare professionals, while other authorities are adopting core concepts in geriatrics—such as reducing hospital readmission rates and managing multiple conditions—as key measures of quality in health care.
When we see opportunities, we figure out how to seize them, and that’s exactly what geriatrics represents for the future of our health and care. The demand for the field’s expertise is growing, and this space is vibrant, rewarding, and full of opportunities.