The Boston Globe has an article today about medical schools focusing on the care of the elderly. Some of the course work includes a focus on hip fractures, drug costs, and discussing end of life issues with their patients.
The new emphasis on aging is part of a wave of change sweeping medical schools nationwide as they focus - many for the first time - on preparing all newly minted doctors to treat the growing population of older Americans. Although students have traditionally trained in hospitals filled with older patients, many graduated with little knowledge of how elderly patients' bodies and minds differ from younger ones.
Now, medical schools are increasingly teaching students in settings that include senior centers and nursing homes. They are incorporating lessons on aging in basic coursework. And many are testing students on their skill in treating older patients before they are allowed to graduate.
"This work is crucial to the well-being of older people and the well-being of healthcare in the United States," said Dr. Richard Besdine, director of the Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research, who is leading a curriculum overhaul at Brown. "Every physician in the United States needs to be educated about care of older people unless they're going to do lifetime pediatrics."
It will be interesting to see if the new emphasis on caring for the aged will lead to a resurgence of doctors who make home visits (and not just to the nursing home or assisted living facility.) As more people choose to age in place, with supports from family, paid care-givers and companions, the need for doctors who make home visits will increase. Just as you can't have an elder law practice without making home visits to those clients who need them, a doctor will have a hard time calling herself a geriatrition if she isn't willing to do the same thing for her patients.