With the baby boom generation closing in on old age, every health care professional should be trained in treating the elderly, contend three nursing professors writing in the current edition of the journal Health Affairs.
People age 65 and older now constitute 13 percent of the U.S. population, a group that will grow to 15 percent by the year 2015, and they require a disproportionate amount of medical care. Yet only three of the nation's 145 medical schools have departments devoted to aging and only 14 require a course in geriatrics, the authors say.
"Existing levels of geriatric physicians and nurses are clearly insufficient to meet current and future demands," say authors Christine Tassone Kovner and Mathy Mezey of New York University and Charlene Harrington of the University of California, San Francisco.
They cite statistics indicating that there are 9,000 geriatric doctors out of 20,000 needed to meet current demand and a projected need of 36,000 by the year 2030. In contrast, there are 57,000 pediatricians, and the authors note that pediatrics, but not geriatrics, is a required portion of medical and nursing school training programs.
The authors suggest that a reasonable goal for closing the gap "is that students in health professional education programs should have required content in and experience caring for older adults."
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Contact: Jon Gardner
Center for the Advancement of Health
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