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Rheumatology is the branch of internal medicine that principally diagnoses and manages rheumatic and musculoskeletal disorders, including all forms of arthritis; inflammatory muscle conditions; connective tissue disease (autoimmune and inheritable); auto-inflammatory disorders; spinal and soft tissue disorders; chronic musculoskeletal pain syndromes; and certain metabolic bone disorders, particularly osteoporosis.
While rheumatic diseases affect all ages, chronic diseases, including musculoskeletal conditions, are on the increase as the population ages. Thus, Rheumatology is a growing medical sub-specialty and one that provides great opportunities and challenges.
Since 2002, arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions have been a National Health Priority Area in Australia. In the most recent AIWH Burden of Disease report, musculoskeletal conditions were recognised as the third most significant contribution to burden of disease in Australians1 with more than 7.6 million Australians (~31% of the total population) reported one or more musculoskeletal diseases or conditions.2
A majority of these, 17% of the total population, reported their problem or condition as being long term (of 6 months duration or more).
Arthritis and back problems were reported most commonly by 15% and 16.4% of the total population respectively.2
Arthritis accounts for around 15% of the disability reported in Australia.1 Such disability has significant impact on core activities such as self-care, mobility and communication and impacts on schooling and employment.
Rheumatology offers diversity of practice and the opportunity to contribute to patient care as a member of a multidisciplinary team. It brings together acute and chronic care as well as hospital and ambulatory work. Opportunities for scientific and clinical research are also considerable, so too are those for teaching and work in public health.
The current requirements for advanced training in Rheumatology and how to apply to complete your training in Australia and New Zealand can be found on the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) website.
There are currently 44 accredited core positions for Adult Rheumatology advanced training across Australia (16 in NSW, 2 in ACT, 9 in VIC, 1 in Tas, 9 in Qld, 4 in SA and 3 in WA). There are also 3 accredited core training positions for paediatric rheumatology training in Australia (1 in QLD, 1 in VIC & 1 in WA). Please see https://www.racp.edu.au/trainees/accredited-settings for the most up to date RACP accredited sites.
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