Treating those patients should be more highly valued, Dr. Bass says, but “if you ask what a rheumatologist does, 99 out of 100 people have no idea. So I think we have a lot of work to do to … make people realize what we do and make people recognize the societal costs of these diseases,” she notes.
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The Medscape data show that the doctors are committed to the work. Some 83% of rheumatologists would choose medicine again—the highest rate of any specialty—and 79% would choose rheumatology. Yet just 48% of rheumatologists feel they are fairly compensated.
“We find our work intellectually stimulating, and rheumatologists tend to be nice and congenial,” Dr. Bass says. “It’s a nice community. And I think because of the ACR, we’re much more cohesive than other fields are. So those are all good things.”
Dr. Bass and the ACR want to make recruitment to rheumatology more of a front-burner issue. In fact, recruiting trainees to all lower-paid cognitive fields is an important strategy to ensure those fields have adequate manpower in the coming decades.
“There’s no incentive to accomplish societal needs,” Dr. Bass adds. “Nobody in the government is saying, ‘What we really need are more primary care specialists or more rheumatologists or whatever, and therefore, we’re going to adjust reimbursement to attract people to those specialties.’
“Nobody is taking that 30,000-foot view, and they really need to,” Dr. Bass says. “And it’s not just rheumatology that’s going to have a workforce shortage. There are a lot of specialties that will face the same [struggle] in the coming decade. And Congress really does need to think in a bigger way about how to redirect trainees.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.