Improving geriatrics training in internal medicine residency programs: best practices and sustainable solutions

David C Thomas, Rosanne M Leipzig, Lawrence G Smith, Kathel Dunn, Gail Sullivan, Eileen Callahan
Annals of Internal Medicine 2003 October 7, 139 (7): 628-34
National surveys indicate a need for additional training in geriatrics during internal medicine residencies. This paper describes 1) "best practices" for integrating geriatrics education into internal medicine residency programs, 2) barriers to implementation of these practices, and 3) possible ways to improve geriatrics training for internal medicine residents. These best practices were determined by a systematic review of the literature and through interviews with leaders of 26 residency and geriatrics programs concerned with geriatrics training for residents. The most successful programs have clinical experiences with 3 key elements: model geriatric care in 1 or more settings (for example, in the hospital or in ambulatory practice), patient care across sites or transitions of care, and interdisciplinary teamwork. Barriers include attitudes, few faculty, need for relationships with nontraditional training sites, and lack of funding. Local solutions include engaging the internal medicine program director to accomplish a mutual goal--for example, by creating a model geriatrics training experience in which residents demonstrate their skill in a new Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education competency (such as systems-based practice). National solutions include reaching consensus on the competencies in geriatrics that should be achieved by board-eligible internists. This may mean increasing the number of questions that test geriatrics competency in the certifying and in-training examinations, increasing numbers of faculty members able to teach and model geriatric care, developing "effective medical resident teaching" courses for nonphysician faculty, and lobbying for improved systems of care.

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