Rheumatology managers face many challenges throughout their work day. From administrative burdens to rising operational costs, juggling it all can be difficult. Despite these obstacles, most managers rise to the occasion, running their practices like a well-oiled machine. One challenge they face, however, is more difficult to overcome, and that is the shortage of new rheumatologists.
According to the American College of Rheumatology, the demand for rheumatology services will increase by 46% over the next ten years, but the number of practicing rheumatologists will increase by only 1.2%. This means that, if things continue at their current pace, there will be a shortage of rheumatologists—a situation no practice manager wants to face!
There are several ways to recruit more rheumatologists from the ranks of medical students. While not all these suggestions are possible or practical for a practice manager, it’s important to be aware of what others are doing to fill this gap, and to focus on helping however we can.
Increase exposure to rheumatology.
While many concentrations, such as cardiology, gastroenterology, and oncology, have a big presence at medical schools, rheumatology isn’t as well represented. Because students aren’t exposed to rheumatology, they don’t have an opportunity to learn how interesting and fulfilling it can be. Some things you can do to change this is to coordinate a medical school visit and get your rheumatologists to visit and speak with current students, or host an after-hours meet-and-greets for medical students in your office. You can also ask your doctors to write “testimonials” for rheumatology and publish them on your website or the local paper as an additional way to reach potential physicians.
Support incentives for rheumatologists.
Many medical students are drawn to concentrations that offer fellowships or repayment programs. Unfortunately, these are very rare or nonexistent for rheumatology fellows. Working towards putting these incentives in place would be a good first step. There are many states with no providers or training programs, so incentives for under-served areas would also be highly effective. Supporting the work of the Rheumatology Research Foundation, which currently funds just over 200 fellows a year, is also a great starting point.
Encourage distribution of rheumatology fellows.
Most fellows don’t travel far, and tend to practice within the area where they were trained. The best way to encourage wider distribution of new rheumatologists and reach under-served populations is to invite medical students from states that lack good rheumatology practices to the American College of Rheumatology’s annual meeting, with the hope that the exposure will make them more interested in pursuing this path.
A good rheumatology practice needs many things to succeed, and excellent rheumatologists are at the top of that list. Do your part now to encourage and foster the next generation of rheumatologists, and ten years from now your job will be much easier!Posted by