When you ask geriatrics healthcare professionals about why they chose their careers, you’ll hear them the same ideals voiced by many different clinicians: compassion, an interest in learning about people’s histories, and a desire to provide continuing care for older adults.
I get to time travel to different eras and cultures, because older people are so willing to share their life stories.
People who pursue geriatrics as a profession often have a close connection to an older adult or caregiver in their own lives, typically a grandparent or other role model. These geriatric practitioners have seen first-hand that medical care for older adults can improve dramatically when it’s less “choppy” or fragmented—a principle at the heart of geriatrics. In many cases, helping solve the problem of fragmented, impersonal health care is what ultimately inspires a career in geriatrics.
Another characteristic that attracts people to geriatrics is its commitment to looking beyond health symptoms to promote high-quality, person-centered care. In getting to know older adults and caregivers in a more personal way, geriatrics healthcare professionals learn about the connections between overall well-being and what individuals ultimately want and need from their own care. Geriatrics bridges an important connection between clinical best practices and the recognition that an older person may have unique care preferences and expectations that warrant adjusting individual plans.
This is equally true for healthcare professionals who pursue careers as academicians or researchers. Despite the fact that more and more of us are living longer, older adults are still underrepresented in clinical trials and healthcare research protocols. Geriatrics researchers are not only working to address that challenge but also are already leading the way on some of the most important changes in healthcare—particularly when it comes to finding ways for rewarding the quality (rather than the quantity) of care we receive.
Geriatrics Healthcare Professionals Enjoy High Levels of Career Satisfaction
In several studies, geriatrics ranks among the most satisfying health professions. In fact, one study reported that geriatricians had the highest job satisfaction of physicians practicing in any subspecialty. Geriatrics healthcare professionals cite their encounters with inspirational older adults, the deep and meaningful relationships they develop, and the typically steady work hours as significant factors adding to their job satisfaction.
Versatility is another attractive quality within geriatric medicine. Geriatrics healthcare professionals practice in a wide variety of settings, from university medical centers to private practice clinics and rural health care centers. Some choose to make house calls or work in long-term care facilities, while others have made mid-career transitions to geriatrics from other specialties—adding a further depth of experience to their work with older people.
As a field, geriatrics is resource-rich, offering fellowships and mentoring opportunities to support you throughout your career. States like Utah and South Carolina also have embedded geriatrics in loan forgiveness programs, recognizing that the work geriatrics healthcare professionals do in underserved communities warrants unique support in today’s healthcare environment.
Geriatrics is Poised for Tremendous Growth
The opportunities available to future geriatrics experts have never been greater. We need about 20,000 geriatricians today 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—the field is poised to thrive on the expertise of creative and forward-thinking colleagues across a range of healthcare disciplines.
Career and Practice Options
Geriatrics is known for its team-based approach to caring for older people and supporting families and caregivers. Among its many collaborators, the typical geriatrics team may include