What is a geriatrician? You could ask Wikipedia – or for a more entertaining answer, you could consult Twitter.
A couple of weeks ago, the president of the British Geriatrics Society, David Oliver, thought he’d have some fun with his fellow geriatricians, so he set up the Twitter hashtag #YouKnowYoureAGeriatrician and asked his colleagues to tweet the rest of the sentence. The resulting stream of tweets provides a window into how geriatricians see their jobs and their patients.
So, What Exactly Is a Geriatrician?
We did check in with Wikipedia – here’s a quick breakdown: A geriatrician is a doctor who develops and manages care plans tailored to the unique needs of older people, who often have multiple health problems and take several medications. In the U.S., these specialists are usually primary care physicians board-certified in either family or internal medicine who complete three to five years of additional training to become certified in geriatric medicine.
The Bad News
The U.S. has a geriatrician shortage – we have one geriatrician for every 2,620 American ages 75 years or older – and it’s only expected to get worse as the senior population surges. In contrast, in the U.K. geriatricians represent the largest group of internal medicine specialists.
What’s up with that? Over the past five years, fewer U.S. medical school grads have been choosing careers in internal medicine and family medicine, the two fields that feed geriatric fellowship programs. Besides, geriatricians earn less than other specialized doctors and have unpredictable work schedules – so why go into geriatrics when you could make more and play more? Read on.
On the Bright Side…
The #YouKnowYoureAGeriatrician tweets show that professionals on both sides of the pond care about older patients’ welfare in unique, patient-centered ways (and can get a little sentimental!).
Check out these sample tweets that we plucked from the Twitter hashtag and what they told us about the profession. (Yes, geriatricians even – gasp – make house calls.)
Geriatricans appreciate all those years lived
#youknowyoureageriatrician when you meet 2 people in one day who were crew members on ships taking part in the D-Day landings.
— Tim Pattison (@Drtimpattison) April 17, 2015
Geriatricians care about the whole person
Geriatricans take it all in their stride
Geriatricans don’t see age as a reason to give up on you
#youknowyoureageriatrician when you bristle when pts tell you “I was told I am this way because I am old”
— George Heckman (@GAWHeckman) April 28, 2015
Geriatricians are wary of too many meds
The tweets about medications reflect a “less is more” approach to prescribing drugs. Per Oliver, many older people are on far too many medications which, when unnecessary, are actually harmful. For U.K. geriatricians, the “home run” is stopping them all. Oliver has now started a separate hashtag #DrugsWeLoveToStop for geriatricians to tweet on. Stay tuned!