Specialty spotlight – rheumatology

Rheumatology deals with the investigation, diagnosis and management of more than 200 rheumatic musculoskeletal disorders (RMDs) affecting joints, bones, muscles and soft tissues. These include inflammatory arthritis, multi-system autoimmune connective tissue disorders such as myositis, vasculitis and lupus, metabolic disorders of bone, soft tissue problems, and degenerative joint disease. It is a meld of whole system internal medicine covering diseases across many internal organ systems. 

As a rheumatologist, I am delighted to introduce this month's specialty spotlight. I am proud to be in a specialty which has such wonderful diversity. Our patients are what make it so special. We have the privilege of working with people with a wide range of conditions, in severity, and in underlying diagnosis. It is a specialty where good clinical skills remain important, and the long-term relationship with our patients is paramount. At the same time, we also have access to groundbreaking research. Encouraging others to share this enthusiasm is a core attribute of rheumatologists, who, as a group, are renowned for their support to their trainees, and for education and training.

Professor Jane Dacre, MD, PRCP 

Dr Elizabeth Reilly, trainee representative, British Society for Rheumatology, discusses working in the specialty with trainees Dr Sarah Hardcastle and Dr Animesh Singh, and rheumatology consultant Dr Tim Jenkinson.

Working closely with primary care, other hospital specialties, and as part of a multidisciplinary team is critical for effective care in rheumatology. The rheumatologist plays a key role in coordinating care across multiple specialties for these patients.

There are opportunities to lead in teaching, academia and hospital management, along with development of sub-speciality interests, such as sports and exercise medicine or paediatric services.

Training generally includes both general medicine and dedicated pure rheumatology time, over 5 years. Rheumatology departments are approachable and keen to involve junior doctors or medical students in audits, quality improvement projects or to join them for clinics to gain greater insight into the specialty. 

Rheumatology is a fun, friendly and progressive specialty, with diverse and interesting conditions, a real multidisciplinary approach, and world-class research opportunities.

Training and working in rheumatology

Rheumatology resources

For more information on the specialty, please visit the British Society for Rheumatology website. 

RCP resources 

Clinical Medicine articles:

Clinical Medicine CME rheumatology articles (2013)

Historical highlights from the library, archive and museum collection

This edition of the library, archive and museum blog explores the history of rheumatology and the Heberden Society, named after William Heberden (1710–1801), who is considered to be the father of rheumatology.