Rheumatology is the study of diseases that affect the joints. Pediatric rheumatology is a specialized area of rheumatology that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of diseases in children and young adults (generally ages 10 to 30). The field of pediatric rheumatology is growing rapidly, with new developments in treatments and technologies.
As you venture into this field, you may be wondering what you can expect as you care for children with rheumatologic conditions. In this article, we will discuss the different types of pediatric rheumatology diagnoses and treatments, as well as the career options available to you in this critical field.
Diagnosing Pediatric Rheumatologic Diseases
Pediatric rheumatologic diseases are common and can be difficult to diagnose. A doctor will typically begin by ruling out other causes of the child’s symptoms, such as allergies or infection. The doctor may also order tests to determine whether the child has an autoimmune disorder, which is a type of disease that is caused by the body attacking its own tissues. If the diagnosis is still uncertain, the doctor may perform a biopsy to determine whether there is evidence of bone spurs or other structural abnormalities in the child’s joints.
The types of tests and screenings that a doctor may order to rule out other causes of the child’s symptoms vary depending on the child’s age and condition. For example, a 2-year-old with fever and joint pain may require an evaluation for strep throat, while a 7-year-old with similar symptoms may need an evaluation for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA).
Treating Pediatric Rheumatologic Diseases
Pediatric rheumatologic diseases are a growing concern and challenge for clinicians. The incidence of pediatric rheumatologic diseases is estimated to be 7-fold greater than in adults, with a significant burden of disease on children and their families. Currently, the only effective treatments for pediatric rheumatologic diseases are immunosuppressive medications, but these have significant side effects that can limit their use. Newer treatments being developed include biologics, gene therapy, and stem cell transplantation.
Careers in Pediatric Rheumatology
If you are interested in a career in pediatric rheumatology, your first step is to become familiar with the different types of diagnoses and treatments that are available. Next, you will need to decide which type of practice interests you most. You may want to pursue a clinical or research career.
Clinical careers involve working directly with patients, while research careers involve conducting studies in this field. Both types of careers have their own benefits and challenges. Clinical careers can be rewarding because they allow you to help patients live healthier lives.
Regardless of your career choice, pediatric rheumatology is an exciting field that offers opportunities for growth and advancement.
There are several different roles that you can pursue in pediatric rheumatology. These include:
This position is often held by physicians who have attained tenure at their institution. Clinical professors typically teach undergraduate and graduate courses in medical school. They may also serve as department chairs or directors of research.
Researchers work in laboratories, conducting studies that aim to improve the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric rheumatology conditions. They may also lead teams that develop new treatments for these diseases. You’ll be using different technological tools and artificial intelligence to conduct your research.
Medical writers help create patient documentation, such as case reports, clinical trial protocols, and summaries of research studies. They also help create educational materials for healthcare professionals.
Pediatric Patient Care Coordinator
A Pediatric Patient Care Coordinator is a nurse or other medical professional who provides comprehensive care to pediatric patients, including providing individualized nursing care, coordinating treatment with other health professionals, and supporting the family during the pediatric patient’s hospital stay. Coordinators also maintain records and make sure that patients receive all necessary medications and treatments.
As a clinician, you’re responsible for providing care to children with rheumatologic conditions. You’ll work with patients and their families to help them manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
To become a pediatric rheumatologist, you’ll need a degree in medical science or a related field. After completing your degree, you’ll likely complete a residency program in pediatric rheumatology.
Pediatric Rheumatology Nurse Practitioner
A pediatric rheumatology nurse practitioner (PNP) provides comprehensive care for children with rheumatic disease, including diagnosing and treating the disease, coordinating care with other providers, and helping children and families cope with the illness. Rheumatology nurses are specially trained to assess and treat children’s symptoms and provide education about the disorder. PNP roles include providing expert advice to families on managing their child’s rheumatic disease, collaborating with other specialists in the child’s care, and providing support to parents during treatment.
Whatever you choose, pediatric rheumatology is an exciting and rewarding field that can help children with their symptoms and improve their quality of life.