Geriatrics for Juniors

16 October 2013

The Association for Elderly Medicine Education (AEME) recently organised a conference in Newcastle to encourage interest amongst junior doctors in the speciality of geriatric medicine. AEME tweets at @ElderlyMedEd

 James Fisher, Kelly Hunt and Mark Garside) The AEME team (from left to right: James Fisher, Kelly Hunt and Mark Garside)

AEME is a non-profit organisation formed in November 2012 by a small group of geriatric medicine trainees in the Northeast of England, all of whom have a common interest in medical education and a passion for their speciality.

AEME organise and support activities related to the continued professional development and education of current and future healthcare professionals working in elderly medicine. One of AEME’s key aims is to promote interest in geriatric medicine and to encourage health care professionals to explore a career in the specialty. AEME’s ultimate goal is to improve the standard of care provided to elderly patients.

Do we really need AEME?

There are about 10.8 million people aged 65+ in the UK, and this is set to increase by nearly 50% in the next 20 years to 16 million. Already,70% of hospital beds are occupied by people over 65. So the need for doctors who specialise as geriatricians is high and will increase. Geriatric medicine is the third most popular medical speciality (behind cardiology and respiratory medicine), with around 1400 Consultants registered with the GMC. In November 2012 there were 621 junior doctors undergoing their specialist training in geriatric medicine, working towards their CCTs, and there are more registrar posts in geriatric medicine than in any other speciality. The good news is that there is increasing interest in geriatrics amongst junior doctors. Applications for specialist training in geriatric medicine were up by 2% in 2013 (to 11% of the total) second only to cardiology. Geriatric medicine was the only acute medical speciality to see a rise in the number of applications compared to 2012.

Despite this excellent news, the changing population demographics and the recognition that older people with multi-morbidity benefit from the specialist knowledge and care that is provided by geriatricians, more consultant geriatricians will be needed. How do we persuade even more excellent junior doctors to choose the health care of older people as a career?

It is known that people often decide to specialise in geriatric medicine after they have worked in the speciality as a junior doctor. The British Geriatrics Society (BGS) is working with the relevant professional bodies, and Age UK, to lobby to increase the amount of training and exposure to the speciality that people receive as medical students and junior doctors. The BGS believes that education in geriatric medicine should be embedded throughout undergraduate training, and that a geriatric medicine post should be an integral part of both foundation and core medical training.

The development of AEME is an important part of encouraging interest in the speciality amongst junior doctors.

Geriatrics for Juniors Conference

In September 2013 we hosted our first conference called ‘Geriatrics for Juniors’ (G4J) at the Centre for Life Conference Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne. The event was organised with support from a number of professional groups including Age UK, The British Geriatrics Society, The Royal College of Physicians and Health Education North East. The AEME team would like to put on record how grateful we are that our speakers gave up their free time to speak at our conference. Many of those speaking at the conference are speakers of international renown, with one even coming straight from the airport having just returned from speaking in Ghana. Slides from the conference are available on our website.

Completely filling the Centre Life Conference Centre (with its capacity of 180 people) seemed rather optimistic, so initial plans were made such that only 40 delegates were needed to ensure that the event was viable. We also assumed that many of those attending the conference were likely to be travelling from local areas. We were thrilled to find that there was in fact great interest in the event amongst junior doctors, with word spreading rapidly thanks to email and social media.

Where delegates came from

Around three weeks before the event G4J was completely sold out. Our maximum number of delegates, 180, had been achieved, with delegates from a variety of backgrounds attending. Furthermore many delegates travelled great distances to attend.

G4J consisted of a series of lectures and interactive presentations, with the programme designed to cover the range of subspecialties that form geriatric medicine. There were two main goals we hoped to achieve with G4J. Firstly, we aimed to provide practical, useful clinical updates that junior doctors would be able to apply to the care of elderly patients when they returned to their work place. Secondly, we aimed to show delegates that a career in geriatric medicine has great variety and provides many different opportunities to explore in terms of career direction.

The ‘Med Reg’ Problem

The medical registrar (‘Med Reg’) is the senior training grade for future hospital consultants in medicine. A recent report by the Royal College of Physicians highlighted that the prospect of becoming the medical registrar is deterring some junior doctors from undertaking a career in general medical specialties such as geriatric medicine. Survey data collected from the delegates attending G4J confirms this worrying trend, with many indicating that the prospect of being the ‘Med Reg’ puts them off exploring a career in geriatric medicine.

To address this, a session called “Being the Med Reg: It’s not that bad!” formed part of G4J. This took the form of a panel-based discussion where delegates had the opportunity to ask questions to a group of current registrars. The panel was selected to include a trainee towards the beginning of their training, a trainee who had taken time out of programme to undertake research and a flexible trainee with children.

What next for AEME?

The AEME team are currently working hard on an exciting new project and hope to make an announcement about this before Christmas.

How can I find out more?

You can visit our website for the latest news on future events and new developments. AEME also has an active presence on social media with a Facebook page and you can follow us on Twitter.

 

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