Career Development

What Does a Rheumatologist Do?

Find out what a rheumatologist does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a rheumatologist.

A rheumatologist is a physician who specializes in the treatment of diseases and disorders of the joints, muscles, bones, and other tissues of the body. They are trained to diagnose and treat conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, scleroderma, and other autoimmune diseases.

Rheumatologist Job Duties

Rheumatologists have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Prescribing medications to treat conditions such as arthritis or Lupus
  • Conducting physical examinations, including taking x-rays and MRIs as needed to diagnose conditions
  • Performing biopsies to remove tissue samples for analysis by a pathologist or other specialist
  • Providing consultations to other physicians regarding difficult cases that they are unable to diagnose or treat
  • Diagnosing patients with rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjogren’s syndrome, scleroderma, and osteoarthritis
  • Performing clinical research to advance the understanding of rheumatic diseases
  • Referring patients to other specialists when appropriate to help them manage their conditions
  • Prescribing medications to treat rheumatic diseases and other conditions that cause inflammation in the body
  • Teaching patients how to manage their condition, work with their physician on a treatment plan, and prevent flare-ups of their disease from occurring

Rheumatologist Salary & Outlook

The salary of a rheumatologist can vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of practice they have. Rheumatologists who work in private practice typically earn more than those who work for hospitals or other organizations.

  • Median Annual Salary: $193,000 ($92.79/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $352,000 ($169.23/hour)

The employment of rheumatologists is expected to grow slower than average over the next decade.

The need for rheumatologists will be limited because other types of healthcare providers, such as primary care physicians and orthopedic surgeons, also treat patients with rheumatic diseases. However, demand for rheumatology services is expected to remain high because these specialists are needed to diagnose and treat rheumatic diseases.

Related: In-Depth Rheumatologist Salary Guide

Rheumatologist Job Requirements

A rheumatologist typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Rheumatologists need to complete medical school and a residency program. They must first earn a bachelor’s degree in pre-medicine, biology or another closely related field. During their undergraduate years, they complete the coursework required for medical school.

After completing their undergraduate degree, aspiring rheumatologists must attend medical school. Medical school is a four-year program that includes classroom and laboratory instruction, as well as clinical experience. During their final two years, students complete rotations in different medical specialties, including rheumatology.

Training & Experience: After completing medical school, a rheumatologist will need to complete a residency program. Residency programs typically last three years and allow the doctor to gain hands-on experience in a clinical setting. During a residency, a rheumatologist will learn how to diagnose and treat patients, as well as how to manage a patient’s care.

After completing a residency, a rheumatologist will need to complete a fellowship. Fellowships typically last two years and allow the doctor to specialize in a specific area of rheumatology. During a fellowship, a rheumatologist will learn how to diagnose and treat patients with a specific condition, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. They will also learn how to manage a patient’s care and how to work with other medical professionals.

Certifications & Licenses: After completing their residency, rheumatologists must pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) to be licensed to practice. They must also have a state medical license, which they can apply for through their state’s medical board.

Rheumatologist Skills

Rheumatologists need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication skills: Rheumatologists communicate with patients, medical staff and other medical professionals. They use their communication skills to explain medical conditions, treatment options and prognosis to patients. They also use their communication skills to explain medical procedures and answer patient questions.

Medical knowledge: Rheumatologists have extensive medical knowledge about the treatment and management of rheumatic diseases. They understand the latest medical research and treatment options for these conditions. This knowledge helps them provide patients with the most effective treatment.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Rheumatologists often use empathy to help their patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. They can also use empathy to help patients feel comfortable discussing their symptoms and treatment progress.

Problem-solving skills: Rheumatologists use problem-solving skills to find solutions to their patients’ health issues. They may use these skills to help patients manage their conditions, reduce pain and improve their quality of life.

Organization: Rheumatologists often have to manage multiple patient files and track their progress. They also need to keep track of their own schedules and appointments. Being organized can help rheumatologists stay on top of their workload and ensure they provide their patients with the care they need.

Rheumatologist Work Environment

Rheumatologists work in a variety of settings, including private offices, clinics, and hospitals. They typically work full time, and some may work more than 40 hours per week. Rheumatologists often work with other physicians and health care professionals, such as physical therapists, to provide comprehensive care for their patients. Rheumatologists may also be involved in research and may teach at medical schools.

Rheumatologist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how rheumatologists work. Rheumatologists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Use of Technology in Healthcare

The use of technology in healthcare is a trend that is quickly gaining popularity, as it allows doctors and patients to communicate more easily and access information more quickly.

Rheumatologists can take advantage of this trend by becoming familiar with the latest technologies and using them to their advantage. This may include using electronic medical records or online patient portals to communicate with patients. It may also include using social media to connect with other professionals and stay up-to-date on the latest research.

Patient Education Becomes More Important

As patients become more educated about their conditions, they are looking for rheumatologists who can provide them with the information they need to manage their disease.

This trend means that rheumatologists will need to be excellent communicators who can explain complex concepts in a way that is easy to understand. They will also need to be able to provide support and guidance to patients throughout their treatment.

More Collaboration Between Specialties

Rheumatologists are increasingly collaborating with other specialists in order to provide better care for their patients.

For example, rheumatologists may work with orthopedic surgeons to help treat patients with joint problems. They may also collaborate with cardiologists to help diagnose heart problems in patients with arthritis.

How to Become a Rheumatologist

A rheumatologist career path can be rewarding and fulfilling. It’s important to consider what you want out of your career before embarking on this journey. Do you want to work in a private practice, or do you prefer the stability of working for a hospital? Do you want to focus on treating patients with specific conditions, such as arthritis or fibromyalgia, or would you rather treat a variety of different conditions?

No matter which direction you choose, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest research and treatments in order to provide the best care possible to your patients. You should also make sure that you have strong relationships with other healthcare professionals, such as physical therapists and nurses, so that you can coordinate care effectively.

Related: How to Write a Rheumatologist Resume

Advancement Prospects

Rheumatologists can advance their career by becoming board certified in rheumatology. Board certification requires passing an exam administered by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Rheumatologists can also join professional organizations such as the American College of Rheumatology. These organizations offer educational opportunities and networking events that can help rheumatologists stay up-to-date on the latest advancements in their field. Rheumatologists can also advance their career by conducting research and publishing their findings in medical journals.

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