Geriatrics: Medicine to Treat the Aging Population

What Is Geriatrics?

Geriatric medicine, which I will refer to as geriatrics throughout the article, is a medical school course on how to treat the elderly. Treating the elderly is a bit different from treating non-elderly adults. For example, it is very important to know which drugs are contraindicated (or should not be used) in a patient with renal failure because elderly patients have a higher prevalence of being renally impaired than someone younger. Geriatrics is also concerned about how likely a person will fall while walking (unsteady gait) and how sharp or dull a person is mentally. The patient could be suffering from dementia or delirium.

geriatrics - nice old man

When I volunteered in the long-term care unit in the hospital, which houses lots of elderly people, it is quite sad that the majority of them were abandoned by their family members. The elderly is a group that needs all the help they can get.

Geriatrics in My School

This course is very similar to clinical medicine, in that the things you will learn will help prepare you for third year more so than Step 1. In fact, clinical medicine ended in the middle of the second semester of second year and geriatrics took its spot.

One section in which geriatrics will help prepare you for the first board exam is pharmacology. A bulk of the course is knowing a broad range of drugs. Old people take lots of drugs, so you must know your pills. Heck, even my grandfather take a bunch of drugs.

As I mentioned, geriatrics took the place of clinical medicine in the second-to-final block of the second year. But unlike clinical medicine, the geriatrics was taught well. The professor was clearly passionate about the subject and about his patients. I could have sworn that his eyes were tearing when he was sharing a clinical experience he had with one of his patients.

Like clinical medicine, there were mandatory small group cases. So whatever I wrote in the clinical medicine section about small group cases apply here as well.

There was also a simulated patient encounter in which you will have to assess a patient’s mental state and the risk of falling based on some tests. It was pretty fun and you do get to learn a lot in preparation for the encounter.

Complaint Against the Course

My main complaint against the course is that they placed this course so far back in the second year. Attendance was high encouraged. I believe it accounted for a percentage of the grade. In addition, there were in-class quizzes on drugs which accounted for another percentage of the grade. Most people, including myself, would rather spend the end of the second year preparing for boards. So because of this class, there were a few weeks where I could not study for boards as much I wanted to. Looking back, the complaint is a minor one as a well-taught classes in the second year are a breath of fresh air.

My other complaint is that learning the drugs will require a lot of busy work. There is a list of drugs you have to know. But you have to find the information about the drugs yourself: the mechanism of action, the side effects, if a drug is contraindicated in patients with renal failure, etc. It would have been better if a chart with all the information you have to know is already provided. My class was so awesome though. Someone took the time to make the charts and send them out to the whole class. If your class is not awesome, then I would recommend you to form a group and divide up the work of chart-making.

How to Succeed in Geriatrics?

Succeeding in this course is very straight forward. Go to class. Cram for the quizzes. Cram for the exam.

I do admit that I only passed this course when I should have high-passed it. I missed high-passing by a point or two. But there is not anything I would have done differently. I had to prepare for boards first. Whatever time I had left over, I would spend it on geriatrics.

Study Tips

  • go to class
  • cram for the quizzes
  • cram for the exam

Additional Geriatric Medicine Resources

There is no additional resource I would recommend. The teacher, himself, could not recommend any other resource to use. If you go to class and study for the exam, you should do fine.

Hey, you! Do you want to know how an accountant, without a science background, made it through medical school without any difficulty? Do you want to know how I memorized a sea of information without cracking my skull in half and dumping the books into my brain? No, I did not slave away all night studying in the library either. If you want to know my complete study system, check out The Secret of Studying.

This article is part of the How to Survive Medical School series. Click on the link if you want more tips and hints about surviving academic hell.

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