Objective: To describe Australian medical graduates' knowledge, experiences and practical training in rheumatology and their attitudes towards rehabilitation and disability.
Design: Cross-sectional survey of all interns at randomly selected hospitals in each State.
Participants: 382 Australian interns at 12 hospitals surveyed in the first week of their 1991 internship.
Results: New interns demonstrated little experience with soft tissue rheumatism, with only 45% reporting they had examined a patient with bursitis and 22% one with epicondylitis. There was considerable dissatisfaction with the teaching of assessment of low back pain, regardless of the amount of formal rheumatology teaching the graduates had experienced, with only 22% rating it as good or excellent. There was little evidence that students are exposed to the social dimensions of chronic illness; only 32% of students reported that they had been shown how to assess a patient's psychological adjustment to illness. Only 22% felt competent at assessing disability and handicap and less than half of the graduates studied had ever attended a clinic where there was a physiotherapist. Graduates who had never been attached to either a rheumatology ward or an outpatients clinic (17%) were less likely to have examined a patient with gout (P < 0.001), osteoarthritis (P < 0.01), or chronic low back pain (P < 0.05), and were more likely to report dissatisfaction with training in rheumatology.
Conclusion: This survey suggests that there are significant problems in the training of medical students in musculoskeletal disorders, particularly in relation to the assessment of disability and the appreciation of psychosocial factors.