I Will Not Be a Geriatrician

Monday, July 1, 2013

Today I'm linking up for Medical Mondays with one of my favorite bloggers - Emma @ Your Doctor's Wife! She always has hilarious stories about life a physician's wife. I'm also linking up with Postcards from Rachel and Northern Belle Diaries for I <3 Bloglovin' so please go check out some new blogs if you have a chance.

If you've been following me for the last two months, you probably know I'm spending my gap year between college and medical school working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or a glorified butt wiper/adult babysitter. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is.

I've learned a lot of things along the way, which you can read here and one of them is that I do not want to be a Geriatrician - an old people doctor. 

This post is highly appropriate since one of my friends who has always wanted to be a Geri doc just told me this weekend she no longer wants to do that either. I was shocked but thoroughly amused! (Sidenote: I'm making her guest post  soon about her first year of medical school so keep a look out for that!).

Just like when I talked about not wanting kids anytime soon (although all these weddings and cute babies on Instagram are making me giddy), I promise I actually do LOVE the elderly population. I love the stories they share about their families, growing up, getting married, their careers, etc. It's fascinating - especially because I've been blessed to know and work with so many veterans and members of the "Greatest Generation." 

With that said, I have the inescapable feeling that I'm simply not cut out for this sub-specialty of medicine. Here's why:

1. Elderly people have even less of a filter than I do.

I learned early on from my great-grandma that the older you get, the less time you waste filtering what you have to say (I can't wait to get old!). Granted all the women in my family already lack this trait so I thought it was just a woman thing for a while.  

Elderly people comment on everything; especially your appearance which can go one of two ways.  Something like, "You look like you've gained weight...in your butt especially," can really put a damper on things (and cause you to cry in a linen closet). On the flip side, an impromptu marriage proposal can totally make your day. Regardless you never know what comment is going to fly out of their mouths and unlike children, they aren't always cute when they say it.

2. Everyone is kicking the bucket.
Let's face it, no one is getting any younger. While this can be argued for all patients, geriatrics are knocking on death's door. One false move and an innocent fall turns into a week in the hospital and a fatal case of pneumonia. 

Here's the thing - I get attached easily. I've already lost a number of patients this year and death is hard - even when you know they are at peace and no longer suffering. While I know death will be present in any specialty I choose, OB-Gyn is looking really attractive right now - it's the business of creating life!

3. Too many medications.

When I look at the amount of pills my patients take in a day, my throat closes up and I panic. How can you take all those medications and not feel like a zombie? I already take any vitamin or pill bigger than an aspirin with applesauce and tons of water - how do they do it?

Management of disease and the aging process usually includes medication for things like chronic pain, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. Keeping side effects and drug interactions at bay is certainly an important role of a doctor but it's not something I'm too terribly excited by.

4. Too much of their day revolves around their bodily functions.
You haven't seen a grumpy old person until they can't have a bowel movement. Some of us judge a good or bad day by our interactions with others, the length of our work commute, or the quality of The Bachelorette and accompanying twitter discussion but the elderly have but one benchmark - bodily functions.

It seems like most old people have a heavily regimented bathroom routine and will not hesitate to describe in detail the actions or inactions within that routine. Up until recently, I denied that such bodily functions even existed for the female population so a job spent catering to these concerns isn't my cup of tea. (Might as well cross Gastro off my list, too).

5. They are like children, only adults.
People say that as we get older, we start to revert back to our childhood which seems to be true a lot of the time. We start to lose our ability to function independently and start to rely on others to perform many daily living activities - this is where I come in. Families get involved and start making personal decisions for their loved ones.

This is all well and good except elderly people aren't children - you have to respect their autonomy. Sure you can suggest changes to their diet or personal schedule but unlike children, they don't have to do what you say and they probably won't. What could be more frustrating? 


Before I forget again, Saturday was my two month blogaversary! I can't believe how quickly June went and how crazy this adventure in blogging has been! Thank you all for your support and positivity!

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  1. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 2, 2013 at 7:50 PM

    I will absolutely keep an open mind but I just can't see it at this point. Who knows what will happen!

  2. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 2, 2013 at 7:51 PM

    Oh that is so right! It's crazy how symptoms are so different in the elderly vs. younger people. We can always tell when my grandpa isn't feel well or has a UTI - he gets loopy!

  3. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 2, 2013 at 7:52 PM

    Amen, girl! I always thought my best friend would be perfect for it but she's not even interested anymore. I guess things can change!

  4. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 2, 2013 at 7:54 PM

    That's a great way to put it. Working with Geriatrics can make you feel so helpless. You're just managing conditions instead of curing or greatly improving most of the time.

  5. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 2, 2013 at 7:56 PM

    I totally agree! Things can always change but I'm pretty sure that won't be my specialty. I hate feeling helpless too. I wanted to make a marked change in someones quality of life.

  6. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 2, 2013 at 8:04 PM

    I worked in one of the facilities you are describing and I completely understand where you are coming from. CNAs are worked trememdously hard (hence why I left after 6 months...). We were always short-staffed, under paired, and under appreciated - the administration was clueless and a lot of the nurses were rude and poorly trained. With that said, there were a lot of CNAs that did not care about the residents. They cared about getting the job done and going home. I hated that environment. I left that place for the pure fact that I would never put a family member there. It was an embarrassment.

    The best thing you can do for your grandmother is listen to any of her concerns and be her advocate. Whether CNAs/nurses are messing things up because they are busy or just bad at their job, they still need reminders. Just be kind - it's hard!

  7. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 2, 2013 at 8:07 PM

    Oh I wish I would've been there! That's too funny!

    I have so many stories like this...men climbing in other people's beds, people peeing in the middle of the floor, and old crusty men propositioning me.

  8. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 2, 2013 at 8:10 PM

    What a wonderful volunteer experience you had! I'm sure that will be beneficial in your future goals as well. I'm grateful for my experiences - I have so much respect for nurses, PCA/CNAs, techs, and others professionals - seeing the day-to-day of patient care is something I think every physician should experience. Too many of them don't understand what goes on! I hope it will make more compassionate. I complain a lot but I really have learned a lot!

  9. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 2, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    I love them too but I'm pretty sure I need a more diverse patient population or I would go permanently batty! haha

  10. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 2, 2013 at 8:13 PM

    I'm very interested in women's health as well! And congrats on your recent graduation. That is wonderful and I wish you good luck and patience :)

  11. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 2, 2013 at 8:14 PM

    I already hurt, I don't want to know what I'm going to feel like in 70 years! Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 2, 2013 at 8:17 PM

    Send me your blog link, I'd love to follow along with you! Thanks for stopping by :)

  13. http://isandos.wordpress.com/ :)

  14. Yeah my mom has always been the 'advocate' of sorts but I definitely should start getting more involved. I don't have any right to complain if I don't try to do anything myself, right??

  15. Love your observations - keen and insightful.

    Stopping by via MM Blog Hop! Great to connect!

    Ray Doc Wife

  16. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 5, 2013 at 8:27 PM

    As long as someone is being the advocate, that's just fine! I'm always very protective and concerned about my grandpa's care when he's in the hospital so I totally understand!

  17. Heather Pretty Strong MedicineJuly 5, 2013 at 8:34 PM

    Thanks for stopping by! Always glad to have new visitors