Home and Community Care Digest
Retired baby boomers: Will we have enough geriatrics-trained health care professionals to look after them?
Methods: Researchers reviewed the current supply of geriatrics-certified US health professionals (physicians, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and others) and the capacity of US training programs to produce sufficient and competent geriatrics-certified practitioners.
Findings:Nurses: While all US nursing and medicine
programs require a paediatrics rotation, there is no similar
commitment to geriatrics. Close to 60% of baccalaureate nursing
programs were without geriatrics-certified faculty. Only 4% met the
criteria for geriatrics education; 23% required a geriatrics
course; and only 14% provided geriatrics as an elective. Less than
1% of practicing RNs in the US are certified in geriatrics.
Physicians: Geriatrics preparation rates are even lower for physicians. 2% of US medical schools have a geriatrics department, and only 10% require a geriatrics course. Less than 1% of the medical faculty are geriatrics specialists. Of the 650,000 licensed physicians currently practicing in the US, less than 9,000 (1.4%) have met qualifying criteria in geriatrics. Some researchers estimate that 20,000 geriatrics-trained physicians are needed to meet current demand and 36,000 will be needed by 2030.
Other Workers: Of 200,000 US pharmacists, only 720 have geriatrics certification. Less than 0.3% of physical therapists are certified in geriatrics.
Conclusions: The increasing proportion of elderly to working age adults is indicating the future need for geriatrics-trained health professionals. However, consensus on required training to produce competency in geriatric care is lacking. More data are needed on the number and types of patients requiring geriatrics specialists versus generalists. Governments, licensing and accreditation bodies could: (a) require increased geriatric content and clinical experience for licensure of professionals and accreditation of facilities (b) provide financial incentives to encourage organizations to provide geriatrics-specific care (c) provide scholarships for geriatrics specialization, and (d) provide support for research on effectiveness of geriatrics training programs and geriatrics patient care.
Reference: Tassone Kovner C, Mezey M, Harrington C. Who cares for older adults? Workforce implications of an aging society. Health Affairs 2002; 21 (5): 78-89.
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