The Pressing Need for Geriatric Healthcare Professionals
Article by: Clint Maun
Without a doubt, the Coronavirus pandemic will burden the U.S. healthcare system and further strain the healthcare workforce shortage. So, this only compounds and increases the need for qualified medical specialists in nursing homes and long-term care settings.
The Benefits of Geriatric Specialization
As you likely already know, geriatric medicine is a specialty that focuses on healthcare of elderly people. It aims to promote health by preventing and treating diseases and disabilities in older adults. Although not every elderly person needs the specialized knowledge of a geriatrician, the benefits of such training and knowledge are very important for many long-term care and nursing center residents.
Here are just a few of the key benefits geriatricians can bring to your facility:
They focus on and treat the whole patient, not just one body system or illness. Moreover, geriatricians focus on what’s important to patients, with both short and long-term health goals in mind. For example, recognizing and treating something simple like constipation can help quickly alleviate discomfort, and in the long term, it can help prevent several serious problems like urinary retention.
They set realistic expectations with patients and families. Geriatricians help create realistic expectations about prognosis and improvement for patients and their families. They discuss prognosis and goals of care early and often. Geriatricians are equipped to help educate and prepare patients and their families with death, so it doesn’t feel like a surprise or the result of poor care.
They scrutinize medications more closely. Patients who are transferred into nursing centers or long-term care facilities are often taking multiple unnecessary, inappropriate, sometimes overtly harmful medications while hospitalized. Although prescribed with good intentions, these medications often do more harm than good, and they are prescribed by physicians who are presumably just not aware of the risks and intricacies with elders. Geriatricians often first think about stopping medications, rather than adding additional drugs to already huge medication lists. They don’t automatically believe that more is more when it comes to medical treatments. If they are going to prescribe medication, geriatricians often start low and go slow.
They can help educate the rest of your staff. Most of your elderly patients aren’t getting any healthier or less complex, and your practitioners need to know how to give them the best care possible. A savvy geriatrician can help educate less sophisticated attending practitioners in your facility. This can be done by doing just-in-time interventions on specific residents and also by larger-scale efforts such as facilitating team learnings and sharing educational materials around topics like reducing inappropriate medications and improving advance care planning.
Without a doubt, geriatrics will likely never be as desirable to medical students as more compensated specialties like orthopedics and neurosurgery. It indeed takes a special kind of person to choose to work with frail elders. However, the benefits to practitioners, facilities, and ultimately patients, are paramount. With best-in-class geriatricians and staff, you can provide care that helps optimize function, better ensures health priorities and goals, and seamlessly guides patients and their families to make informed decisions about medical treatments.
"Opportunities don’t happen, you create them." —Chris Grosser