A geriatrician is an internal or family medicine physician who also has special expertise (and may be board-certified) in geriatrics. In addition to their special knowledge of health and well-being as we age, geriatricians are known for collaborating with interdisciplinary teams including nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants, social workers, and many others who work together to coordinate complex care for older adults and caregivers. Geriatricians can work in private or group practices, long-term care facilities, post-acute care facilities, hospitals/health systems, academic medical centers or other research settings.
Geriatric Nurse Practitioner
Nursing roles are diverse, ranging from delivering or overseeing direct care and coordinating case management to establishing nursing practice standards, developing quality assurance procedures, and directing complex nursing care systems. Nurse practitioners have advanced training allowing them to prescribe certain medications, perform exams, diagnose and treat certain illnesses, and work with individuals like older adults and caregivers to manage care and treatment decision-making. Registered Nurses, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, and Licensed Practice/Licensed Vocational Nurses are among the diverse group of nurse professionals working in many different settings, including clinics, hospitals/health systems, private practices, and research facilities.
A pharmacist not only receives expert training to prepare and dispense medication but also helps people understand different treatment options and how to manage care when using medications. Geriatric pharmacy specialists are those who have special knowledge in the care of older adults. Geriatric pharmacists often work in consultative roles as part of healthcare teams. Many geriatric pharmacists also work in lead roles at skilled nursing facilities, assisted living sites, hospice facilities, and other healthcare institutions. Regardless of where they practice, pharmacists are an integral part of the provision of care for older adults and serve as experts in medication-related information for their healthcare teams.
Geriatric Physician Assistant
A physician assistant (PA) is a healthcare professional who works on a team with physicians and other healthcare providers. PAs have special training and work with their interprofessional colleagues to diagnose and treat certain illnesses, as well as prescribe medications, perform physical exams, take medical histories, order and interpret laboratory tests, and assist in other procedures common across health care. PAs work in private practices, hospitals, and clinics, and those with a focus on geriatrics often specialize in person-centered care, transitions of care and discharge planning, comprehensive geriatrics assessment, mobility management, ethics, end-of-life care, nursing home care, and best practices for addressing geriatrics syndromes.
Geriatric Social Worker
Social workers are health professionals committed to enhancing the well-being of diverse individuals, families, groups, communities, and societies, with a particular focus on those who are most vulnerable. Social workers who specialize in gerontological social work counsel older adults, caregivers, and communities on many aspects of life that change as we age, including those related to overall well-being, illness, disability, and changes in socio-economic circumstances. Gerontological social workers practice in many different settings, including at hospitals, aging services organizations, prisons, social service agencies, private practices, and mental health clinics. Long-term gerontological social work includes coordinating care and addressing challenges and opportunities as they arise over a period of months, years, and sometimes even decades.
Want to hear from geriatrics experts themselves about why they chose this field? Click here for Profiles in Geriatrics, or view the pathways that these careers can take here.