inclusion of geriatrics in standardized examinations may encourage schools to increase the levels of geriatric education in their curricula. Exceptions may be made where appropriate (i.e., certain pediatric specialists and obstetricians). More will need to be done to improve the tools that evaluate this competence, such as ensuring the breadth and depth of questions on examinations are adequate to prove competence. In addition, educators, professional organizations, board examiners, and state licensing boards will need to work together to determine the best methods for assuring that the educational and training curricula for each discipline are devised to impart the competencies (i.e., knowledge, skills, and abilities) that these examinations will assess.
Developing an effective health care workforce for older Americans will require taking a number of factors into account, including the demands of the future elderly population and changes that may affect the education and training of professionals. Furthermore, needs may develop for new types of workers and new skill sets, especially in light of new models of care and the emergence of new technologies. This section describes alternatives to traditional education, including the greater use of distance education and community colleges. Distance education is an efficient way to spread geriatric knowledge held by a small number of experts to large numbers of professionals, while community colleges can train certain types of new and existing workers, providing a source of education for some professionals who might have previously received only on-the-job training and also offering a way to standardize training. Finally, the section examines how emerging technologies and models of care may create needs for new types of workers or skill sets. This includes the possibility of having current workers take on different jobs so as to create a more flexible workforce that uses all individuals efficiently (to their maximum levels of competence).
In recent years there has been a significant increase in the use of Internet-based education for the initial and continuing education and training of professionals in geriatrics (Gainor et al., 2004; Supiano et al., 2002; Swagerty et al., 2000). This is one way to achieve wider dissemination of geriatric knowledge, especially to those—such as health care providers in rural areas—who are unable to attend courses because of geographic, financial, and time-based constraints (Murphy-Southwick and McBride, 2006).