Dr. Mark Archambault
While all physician assistant (PA) programs provide education in the field of geriatrics, students still report a level of discomfort in patient and family interactions with the elderly, particularly at the end of life. This paper addresses the need for increased physician assistant education in the area of geriatrics and end-of-life care and proposes ways in which PA programs can increase geriatric instruction in an already full curriculum.
The United States is experiencing a “bump” in the over-65 population caused by the “Baby Boomer” generation (born 1944-1964), because of higher birth rates following military veterans returning from World War II, and because advances in medical science are increasing the average lifespan. Therefore, the average age of the patient population in the United States continues to rise. Physician assistants are expected to help fill the gap created by decreasing numbers of physicians in primary care, and graduating classes of PAs must be prepared to care for older adults, including at the end of life. At least one study has shown that PA students are not comfortable caring for patients at this stage of life, and most graduating PA students are not choosing Geriatrics or Palliative Care among their most desired specialties following graduation. It is incumbent upon PA programs to prepare students to be sensitive, confident, and competent clinicians for this fragile and growing patient population. This paper reviews the literature on education of medical providers to prepare them to provide compassionate and competent care to older adults and those at the end of life and proposes ways to incorporate more geriatric content in our programs.
Summers D. Proposal for a Robust Geriatric Curriculum for Physician Assistant Programs. Lynchburg Journal of Medical Science. 2020; 2(3).
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