A Passion for the Work: Eldercare Providers Speak out about Their Work in Geriatrics

By Barbarotta, Linda | Aging Today, January/February 2011 | Go to article overview

A Passion for the Work: Eldercare Providers Speak out about Their Work in Geriatrics


Barbarotta, Linda, Aging Today


Linda Barbarotta, one of our Generations authors, recently interviewed six care providers who are working in medicine, acute- and long-term-care nursing, psychiatry, social work and homecare. She asked what drew them to their work with older adults, and about the joys and challenges of their professions and why they stay.

Aging Today is pleased to offer the following excerpt from these interviews, which are featured in the article, "Voices from the Field," in the Winter 2010-11 issue of Generations.

Irene Fleshner, R.N., senior vice president, Strategic Nursing Initiatives, Genesis Health Care, Kennett Square, Pa.

Q: What are the biggest challenges to building long-term-care nursing?

A: Changing how long-term care does business by increasing the focus on employee education and staff development. The institutional culture expects people to do a job without the necessary orientation or training. You can't build a wonderful, competent, committed workforce without this investment.

Q: What are the satisfactions and joys?

A: Working with nurses who enjoy caring for older adults is wonderful. They are enthusiastic, committed, and, while many need additional training and skills, they are hungry for knowledge and learning.

Cheryl Phillips, M.D., chief medical director, On Lok, Inc., San Francisco, Calif.

Q: Why do you stay in the field?

A: I quite truly love geriatrics. But I'm not unique. Two recent studies showed geriatricians were the most satisfied and second most satisfied among physician specialists.

Q: What do you tell a colleague about being a geriatrician?

A: I tell them one of the pleasures of geriatric medicine is its complexity. I tell medical students and primary-care residents that geriatrics is the perfect intersection of diagnostic challenges and the person, his or her family and environment.

James Ellison, M.D., geriatric psychiatrist and clinical director, Geriatric Psychiatric Program, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Mass.

Q: Were there any moments in your career that crystallized for you why you're in the field?

A: Every day brings some moment of insight or enjoyment. I always learn from the experience of my patients and am often impressed by the way many older adults engage in treatment. Many of my patients show remarkable motivation, understanding and willingness to work hard addressing their problems.

Helping families adjust to the illness of an older relative they care about and love is rewarding. Helping them mobilize their resources and cope with such difficult situations is one way geriatric mental health clinicians add value to the healthcare system.

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A Passion for the Work: Eldercare Providers Speak out about Their Work in Geriatrics
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