Geriatrics may be a ‘stealth’ family-friendly profession

August 22, 2019

It’s no secret that while the entire nursing home industry has a labor problem, there is significant concern over whether enough geriatricians are entering the field.

The United States needs to start training about 1,600 geriatricians per year for the next decade in order to keep up with demand, one estimate posited. There are currently around 7,300 board-certified geriatricians, leading some lawmakers to propose funding around the shortage.

The New York Times, somewhat inadvertently, may have found a solution. It focused a recent article regarding how “medicine has become a stealth family-friendly profession.” It leads with a chief resident on track to become an oncologist when she found out she was expecting twins. She opted for internal medicine and geriatrics instead.

Both geriatricians Michael Wasserman, M.D., and Cari Levy, M.D., Ph.D., in interviews with me yesterday, agreed that a secret weapon in recruiting more geriatricians, especially those working in nursing homes, is to emphasize its flexibility. That’s music to the ears of many working parents. 

“When it comes to post-acute and long-term care, you don’t have anyone in the waiting room,” Wasserman told me. “It’s easier to have more flexibility.” 

He also said many women often have had their own caregiving experience, which may lead to an empathy with families and residents.

“It lends itself in a way to focus on expanding the field,” he says. “We need fewer physicians who go into long-term care because they think it’s a way to make money that doesn’t involve as much work. We need more  folks who go into it because they care, but also want to find a lifestyle that works.”

Levy, the president of The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Medicine (AMDA), said she’s talked up nursing home medicine for years to medical students and residents because of its flexibility. Nursing home physicians often can set their own schedules, and also have no office overhead.

“I had a colleague who had eight children and she would get them all off to school and go see patients,” Levy said. “She’d go back at night.”