Treatment Team

Members of the Treatment Team


Seniors may find that the family practice physician or internist they have relied on for years is more attuned to the problems and treatments affecting younger populations and has less awareness of the aging effects and health challenges experienced by seniors. If health problems are not being resolved by a primary physician, a senior may wish to seek an opinion from a geriatrician, or if possible, utilize a geriatrician as their primary physician.

Geriatricians are medical doctors (MDs) or osteopaths (DOs) who have completed a fellowship-training program in geriatrics. Geriatricians have developed an expanded expertise in the aging process, the impact of aging on illness patterns, drug therapy in seniors, health maintenance, and rehabilitation. They serve in a variety of roles including hospital care, long-term care, home care, and terminal care. They are frequently involved in ethics consultations to represent the unique health and disease patterns seen in seniors. The model of care practiced by geriatricians is heavily focused on working closely with other disciplines such as nurses, therapists, social workers, and pharmacists.

Unfortunately there are not enough geriatricians to meet the need. Currently there are only about 7,600 geriatricians to meet the need. Currently there are only about 7,600 geriatricians, or 4.5 for each 10,000 persons ages 75 and over. The American Geriatrics Society estimates that by 2030, the 20 percent of the population that will then be age 65 and older will require at least 36,000 geriatricians to meet their health care needs. The training programs are not able to keep up with the demand, partly because there are too few geriatricians available to teach in the medical schools and partly because there is not enough interest in entering the field.

Geriatric Nurse Practitioners

Another valuable addition to the Seniors health care team is the geriatric nurse practitioner (GNP). These nationally certified nurses have completed advanced clinical education (often master's degree level) that focuses on the health and disease issues faced by seniors. As established by the board of nursing issuing their licenses, GNPs work collaboratively with physicians in primary care, acute care, or long0term care settings and have authority to write prescriptions. They perform physical examinations, order and interpret diagnostic tests, establish diagnoses, prescribe medications, and counsel patients regarding health promotion, self-care needs, and disease prevention.

GNPs combine the care-based model used by physicians. Studies show that GNP care is cost effective and produces a high rate of satisfaction among patients. For example, there is an evolving system of nursing home care that is particularly committed to the use of nurse practitioners who see nursing home residents on a daily basis. Adding a GNP to the traditional health care team of a senior nursing home patient can often provide earlier detection and treatment of health problems than is seen in nursing home residents who are seen only once per month by their primary physicians.

The above information was provided by the Society of Certified Senior Advisors (SCSA)