TABLE 4-1 Number of Providers in 2005 and Projected Number Needed in 2030 to Maintain Current Provider-to-Population Ratios (in Thousands)

 

2005

2030

Difference

Total health providers

9,994

13,522

3,528

Registered nurses

2,458

3,326

868

Nursing aides

2,009

2,719

709

Physicians

804

1,088

284

Licensed practical and vocational nurses

654

885

231

Pharmacists

236

319

83

Dentists

163

220

57

Other providers

3,670

4,965

1,295

NOTE: Numbers are for overall health care workforce and not limited to geriatric population.

SOURCE: Mather, 2007.

of the elderly population as a subspecialty of internal or family medicine. These specialists account for only a very small portion of the total physician workforce—just 7,128 physicians are certified geriatricians, or one geriatrician for every 2,546 older Americans (ADGAP, 2007b). By 2030, assuming current rates of growth and attrition, one estimate shows that this number will increase to only 7,750 (one for every 4,254 older Americans), far short of the total predicted need of 36,000 (ADGAP, 2007b; Alliance for Aging Research, 2002). In fact, some argue that there could be a net decrease in geriatricians because of the decreasing number of physicians entering training programs as well as the decreasing number of geriatricians who choose to recertify (Gawande, 2007). Geriatric psychiatry faces a similar shortage. Only 1,596 physicians are currently certified in geriatric psychiatry, or one for every 11,372 older Americans, and by 2030 that total is predicted to rise to only 1,659, which would then be only one for every 20,195 older Americans (ADGAP, 2007b).

Other professions have similarly low numbers of geriatric specialists. For example, just 4 percent of social workers and less than 1 percent of physician assistants identify themselves as specializing in geriatrics (AAPA, 2007; Center for Health Workforce Studies, 2006). Less than 1 percent of registered nurses (Kovner et al., 2002) and pharmacists2 are certified in geriatrics. In short, dramatic increases in the number of geriatric specialists are needed in all health professions. Even with tremendous effort, it is

2

Personal communication, T. Scott, American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, November 6, 2007.



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