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A Rheumatologist is a specialist physician who investigates, diagnoses and treats diseases, injuries and deficiencies of human joints, muscles and soft tissue. Common rheumatic diseases include arthritis, tendonitis and osteoporosis. Rarer diseases include lupus, myositis and scleroderma. FutureGrowthModerate

A rheumatologist uses advanced medical knowledge to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal and autoimmune disorders. Rheumatologists assist patients by evaluating their symptoms and ordering diagnostic imaging. They might also make recommendations to improve symptoms or prevent the progression of a rheumatic disease.

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.

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.

There are over 100 types of rheumatic diseases, some of these are very serious and can be difficult to diagnose and treat.

ANZSCO ID: 253323

Knowledge, skills and attributes

To become a rheumatologist, you would need:

  • good diagnostic skills
  • a broad knowledge of general medicine
  • an empathetic approach to managing patients with long-term conditions
  • good management skills within the multidisciplinary team


Early stages of RA
Early stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis
(Source: RAP-eL)

Duties and Tasks

  • Examines patients to determine the nature and extent of problems after referral from general medical practitioners and other medical specialists, and undertakes laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures.
  • Analyses test results and other medical information to make diagnoses.
  • Prescribes and administers drugs, as well as remedial and therapeutic treatment and procedures.
  • Records medical information and data.
  • Order diagnostic imaging to identify signs of a systemic or autoimmune disorder
  • Monitor the progress of an existing rheumatic disorder
  • Prescribe medications to improve symptoms or slow the progression of the disorder
  • Perform a physical assessment to better understand the symptoms
  • Educate the patient on the autoimmune disorder and discuss a treatment plan
  • Reports specified contagious and notifiable diseases to government health and immigration authorities.
  • May admit or refer patients to hospitals.
  • May consult other medical specialists.

Working conditions

Rheumatologists usually work regular office hours with occasional longer hours including evening and weekend work. A typical day involves seeing outpatients and spending time doing paperwork. The role can be emotionally demanding yet rewarding.

Rheumatology is an opportunity to practise clinical medicine in its broadest sense however it can sometimes be regarded as having a low profile compared to cardiology and oncology.

Tools and technologies

Rheumatologists should be competent in the use of a number of tools and technologies including:

  • radiographs

  • nuclear medicine

  • ultrasound

  • CT scanning

  • MRI

  • biopsy

  • electrophysiological testing

Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a rheumatologist, you need to first become a qualified medical practitioner and then specialise in rheumatology.

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).

Did You Know?

Rheumatologists are experts in treating the many different types of arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions including:

which most commonly occurs in the hands, hips, knees or feet
Gout ,
which most commonly affects the big toe but can also affect other joints such as knees and hands

Gout in elderly man
(Source: eMedicine)

which increases the risk of broken bones
that affects one or more specific parts of the body, most commonly the low back, neck, shoulder, hip, and foot
Generalised pain conditions
(e.g. fibromyalgia)

They also diagnose and treat autoimmune diseases including:

Rheumatoid arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis,
a type of arthritis that occurs in people with psoriasis
Ankylosing Spondylitis,
which most commonly affects the back
Reactive Arthritis,
which most commonly occurs in young adults after an infection
(Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, SLE)
which affects the skin, blood vessels (Raynaud’s phenomenon) and may affect the kidneys, lungs and other organs
Sjogren’s syndrome
which commonly causes dry eyes and dry mouth
which involves inflammation in the muscles

Some rheumatologists will also have interests or specific experience in certain areas. In particular there are also paediatric rheumatologists who see patients younger than 18 years of age. Conditions in children and adolescents are often quite different from adult conditions and require particular expertise.


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Material sourced from
Jobs & Skills WA [Rheumatologist;
Health Careers UK [Rheumatology;]
Indeed Career Advice [Rheumatologist; ]
Health Times [What is a Rheumatologist;]

Your Career [Rheumatologist;




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