A rheumatologist is a specialist medical doctor who focuses on diagnosing and treating arthritis or any other type of musculoskeletal disease. He or she could be a pediatrician or internist.
Rheumatologists mainly treat patients who are usually referred to them by primary care doctors. They often deal with conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, gout, tendinitis, fibromyalgia, and other rheumatic diseases which cannot be treated by pediatricians or internists. When the patients are told that they have any of these problems, rheumatologists will study the patient’s file and learn more about that patient’s medical history. This will help them determine the triggers of the problem. Aside from studying the medical history, rheumatologists may order a physical exam and other diagnostic tests to locate the specific joint pain. In cases when the pain is hard to pinpoint, rheumatologists may schedule several check-ups with the patient before they can make a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. It is quite common for them to see the patients several times due to the chronic form of the rheumatic diseases. Rheumatologists have to work with their patients hand in hand to determine the pain, the causes of pain, and the treatment for immediate and long-lasting relief. It is also their job to keep the patient as comfortable as possible.
Another important duty that rheumatologists have to fill is to educate the patient, their family, and the rest of the community about dealing with a chronic rheumatic disease. They could discuss topics such as medications, preventing disability, coping techniques, regaining function, and improving the patient’s quality of life.
Read more about What is a rheumatologist.
Working with other health care professionals
Rheumatologists usually need to work with other health care professionals. They have to coordinate with other physicians and play the role of a health consultant who will assist the physician in making a diagnosis and developing a treatment plan for the patient. There are also cases when rheumatologists have to play the role of a manager, who will be working with skilled nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, social workers, and psychologists. Collaboration with other health care professionals cannot be avoided in a rheumatologist’s line of work because of the chronic nature of musculoskeletal disorders.
Rheumatologist work environment
Many rheumatologists work in a hospital, medical clinic, a doctor’s office, and outpatient facility. They are only allowed to work in a medically sterile, temperature controlled, and well-lit environment. They usually spend their working hours in a medical office environment as they offer treatment modalities and conduct tests in a medical treatment room. However, there are also rheumatologists who start a private practice, while some choose to work in a team composed of other doctors and specialists.
Most rheumatologist work full time, for at least sixty hours per week. They are often required to work overtime and are on call 24/7.
Rheumatologists will help their patients enjoy their life without suffering from too much pain. If they do their job well and find better work opportunities, they will be greatly compensated and will enjoy high growth potential.