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Best of 2019 - Why Rheumatologists are the Happiest

Dec 25, 2019 3:00 am
It’s hard work wearing a crown. The dermatologists have been dethroned as Medscape’s happiest specialty after years at the top. While studies only detail that we are the most satisfied outside of work, I argue we are the happiest working, too.
With an N of 1, here are my observations. 
  1. We find our job satisfying. I tell patients that I understand they don’t want one of our diagnoses or to take long term medications but, the flip side of the coin is that our specialty focuses on quality and longevity of our patients lives. What a blessing!
  2. Our disease states are interesting which peaks our intellectual curiosity.
  3. We treat humans, not lab tests or imaging results. This allows us to create long term relationships with our patients and their loved ones.
  4. Our colleagues are supportive, smart, and engaged. Bernie Rubin taught me that The “real fellowship starts after graduation.” With this in mind, we are generally nice and enjoy running cases with each other. I’m so lucky to have wonderful mentors that I love turning to for their expertise.
  5. We are an interesting bunch with varied activities in and out of clinic. If you you find me in clinic, I promise to laugh with you about your latest camping snafu, music recital, or my new adult tap class, etc. 
  6. We understand that our staff are integral to our happiness and treat them well. It’s more than “just a job,” they are family.
  7. We tend to put family first which actually improves our focus and dedication in clinic.
  8. Rheumatologists are integral in our communities. I enjoy reaching out to other providers if they have questions or concerns about patients. Bonus: this builds relationships and referrals.
  9. Our specialty supports research, academia, and clinical interests for individuals, and in various combinations.
  10. We get to eat! Remember that old surgery adage of “eat when you can, sleep when you can, pee when you can?” Yeah, we don’t have to live that way.
When deciding upon specialties in medical school, rheumatology was a natural fit and I can’t imagine spending my time doing anything else. So wear your crown proudly! I can’t wait to share this with my dermatologist mom. 
What else would you add to this list?
The Medscape survey of >15,000 physicians and 29 specialties showed that rheumatologists topped the list by specialty with 65% indicating they were happy outside work. Followed by otolaryngologists (60%), diabetes/endocrinology specialists (59%), and pediatricians (58%). This differs from last year when the four happiest groups of specialists were allergists, dermatologists, emergency physicians, and ophthalmologists.
You can see the whole survey here.


The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose related to this subject

Rachel Tate, DO is in clinical practice at Arthritis and Rheumatology Associates of Palm Beach. Her areas of interest include patient advocacy, musculoskeletal ultrasound, pregnancy in connective tissue disease, and spondyloarthropathies.

Rheumatologists’ Comments

Dr. Milton Baker

| Dec 28, 2019 5:23 am

Thanks for writing this great article! It’s very informative, and you included some great points about best rRheumatologists to the equally great article.

Ulker Tok

| Dec 28, 2019 11:50 pm

No I don’t have time to eat or pee. Just too busy when all pts show up. I take the time they need with them and always am behind schedule. I don’t have a midlevel and am a solo practitioner so don’t have time to do research or teach and get paid or have mentors in arms distance to discuss cases with. I take work home all the time because there’s just too much of it. I try not to let work stress me but it is hard to do when you deal with half a dozen drug denials a day among many other things you deal with with pts. Especially dealing with insurance companies who just play games so they deny drugs wears me out and brings me to near burnout. I try to keep my head up and have a life- work balance and try to spend time with my kids and socialize and go on vacations which are not really off times but is ok because I’m used to it. I try to still be happy because I actually help people and when they appreciate it the gratitude in their eyes is worth all the hard work and frustration. So am I the happiest of all physicians? Maybe not but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything different.
Dr. Tok, thank you for your perspective. I think you highlight a number of issues that will add to burnout over time and have become/continue to be palpable hindrances in our practice. There's no doubt I love my job and I put a lot of my personal value into helping people. As you said, you wouldn't do it differently. But these are real concerns that need to be addressed. They all have influence on the delicate balance of our lives. I so appreciate you sharing this! Now that these have been identified, how do we tip the scale? How can we better safeguard ourselves and how can we help future generations of physicians?

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