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What is a Rheumatologist?

What is a Rheumatologist?
Photo: What is a Rheumatologist?
A Rheumatologist is a physician (internist or paediatrician) specially trained to diagnose and treat autoimmune diseases and diseases affecting joints, bones and soft tissues, commonly known as Rheumatic diseases.

Common diseases treated by rheumatologists include Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Gout, Osteoporosis and various forms of Arthritis.

Rheumatologists often work in outpatient clinics with patients directed to them by referral, either from a hospital or a GP. Many rheumatologists also work in research settings to further knowledge of disease and the creation of new treatments.

What do Rheumatologists do?
In a patient consultation, a Rheumatologist will first review the patients’ medical history as well as any test results provided and undertake a physical examination.

A Rheumatologist may also order a number of additional diagnostic tests including ultrasound, x-ray, pathology or a range of other laboratory tests.
Once a diagnosis is established, a rheumatologist will prescribe a course of treatment which may include pharmaceuticals (NSAIDs, steroids, anti-rheumatic drugs), physiotherapy and/or occupational therapy. Rheumatologists often work in multidisciplinary teams with other health practitioners to manage and treat diseases.

Education
To become a Rheumatologist in Australia you must first complete either a 5 year Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) or a 4 year graduate medical degree.

Upon completion of a medical degree, applicants can register for provisional accreditation and undertake a minimum 12 month internship as a junior doctor, usually within the public system.

Full medical registration is awarded after completion of an internship. Doctors must then spend years completing their ‘pre-vocational’ residency as an RMO (Registered Medical Officer). Doctors may spend 5-10 years working as an RMO, Registrar or Physician before they are eligible to apply for advanced training with the Royal Australian College of Physicians.

Advanced training in Rheumatology is an additional 3 years in a training position at an approved site (refer to RACP for more information). Once advanced training is complete, trainees will be awarded Fellowship with the Royal Australian College of Physicians (FRACP).

What do Rheumatologists earn?
Salaries for Rheumatologists vary by location, experience and organization however the Australian Bureau of Statics reports the average salary range is $152,000 - $205,000 (ABS 2009).

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