An innovative program in ethics education exists at Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. This program can serve as a helpful model for long-term care and geriatric care facilities seeking to implement formal training programs in bioethics. Various aspects of the ethics education program are examined. In addition to describing the role of the ethics committee and research ethics board, consideration is given to case consultations, ethics rounds, the training of junior physicians and medical students, grand rounds and the planning of conferences and guest lectures. With regard to educational content in bioethics, health law, professional guidelines and the principlist approach of Beauchamp and Childress are used to explore the ethical dimensions of particular cases. Given the clinical context of the educational initiatives, the pedagogical approach is predominately case-based. While the bioethics literature emphasizes the patient-physician relationship, ethics education at Baycrest recognizes the importance of multiple professions. Physicians, nurses, social workers, speech pathologists, nutritionists and other health care providers are involved in ethical deliberation and education.
Research by Canadian geriatricians has grown significantly since the Canadian Society of Geriatric Medicine was founded in 1981. Most research has been clinical or related to health service use. More recently, the Canadian Study of Health and Aging (CSHA) has proved an important focus for population-based research, and research on dementia. An increasing number of Canadian geriatricians have undertaken formal research training, and the CSHA study team and other groups are providing opportunities for multicentre, multidisciplinary, collaborative studies. These developments point to continued growth in research by Canadian geriatricians, most likely research with a clinical and population focus and employing multicenter designs.
Geriatric medicine grand rounds (GMGR) from the University of Alberta are videoconferenced weekly to health-care providers at up to 9 urban and 14 rural sites across Alberta. A questionnaire was given to all participants attending 20 consecutive GMGR presentations from January 2002. The response rate was 85% (n = 625) for all participants and 99% (n = 123) for physicians alone. The audience was composed of registered nurses (42%), physicians (17%) and other health-care professionals. 'Interest in topic' was cited by 95% as the main reason for attendance. Doctors and nurses cited continuing medical education as an additional factor. The highest attendance was for the topics vascular dementia, behavioural problems in dementia, the genetics of dementia and falls prevention. Participants at the remote sites gave lower evaluations of quality of the GMGR presentations than those at the hub site. The measurement, care and treatment of dementia appeared to be the main concerns of health-care providers across the province. The videoconferencing of GMGR appears to be an effective method of meeting the demands of physicians and allied health professionals for education in geriatric medicine.
In the fall of 2007, the Government of Quebec set up a Public Consultation on Living Conditions of Seniors. Fifty sessions were held in 26 cities across all 17 regions of the province. More than 4000 seniors attended the sessions and 275 briefs were received from scientists and associations. Three themes were identified in the report published in 2008: supporting seniors and their caregivers, reinforcing the place of seniors in society, and preventing problems associated with aging (suicide, abuse, addictions). The main actions that I recommended included: Increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement to prevent poverty; Modifying pension plans and working conditions to allow for progressive retirement; Making a major investment in home care to provide access to services regardless of place of residence; Introducing an Autonomy Support Benefit and autonomy insurance program for financing services to support people with disabilities; Generalizing an Integrated Service Delivery Network providing services to frail older people; Better training for professionals in gerontology. I also recommended setting up a National Policy on Seniors to align all government departments and agencies, municipalities and the private sector around a vision, objectives and a set of actions for improving the integration of seniors in an aging society. This would contribute to a more equitable, interdependent and wiser society. Unfortunately, the Government did not support these recommendations. It is now time for scientists to get involved in leading policy on seniors and in the political arena.
A survey is in progress of the training in geriatrics given in Europe, and the status of such training in the Nordic countries is reported here. The Nordic countries--particularly Sweden--have a fairly long tradition of basic training in geriatrics and the research possibilities are also comparatively good. But the distribution of professorships, university departments, and basic training in geriatric medicine are still uneven in the Nordic countries.
Canada's aging population, fewer medical students training in geriatric medicine, and inadequate geriatric curricula require that medical schools immediately address how future physicians will be able to care for older people effectively. The medical literature suggests that experiential learning strategies improve undergraduate medical students' knowledge of and interest in less-popular subjects, but the durability of improvements resulting from these resource-intensive learning approaches remains unclear. In October 2001, a convenience sample of all University of Western Ontario medical students attending the geriatric component of their first year was randomized to attend one 3-hour didactic lecture or 3-hour experiential learning session. Approximately 1 year later, students completed a follow-up knowledge and attitudes survey that was matched to their first-year surveys using date-of-birth data. Of 100 completed follow-up surveys, 42 were used in formal analysis. Although initially the experiential group demonstrated a better knowledge score, at 1-year follow-up, there was no significant difference in knowledge, attitudes toward older people, or interest in geriatric medicine between the didactic (n=17) and experiential (n=25) groups. Nevertheless, these students (n=42) demonstrated better attitude scores than those (n=22) who had not attended either educational intervention. This study challenges the belief that an experiential approach is a superior training method to a didactic approach. One year after an educational intervention, there was no difference in geriatric knowledge, attitude scores, or interest in geriatric medicine between students who underwent a didactic lecture or a participatory, experiential learning session.