Allied health professionals play a role in the identification, evaluation and prevention of various conditions and illnesses. If you are considering becoming an allied health worker, you have a lot of options. Allied health professionals span a variety of careers including respiratory therapists, imaging and x-ray technicians, lab technicians, sonographers and ultrasound technologists, physician assistants and medical assistants.
Allied health professionals work in various settings that range from healthcare facilities and private medical practices to government agencies. If you are thinking about a career in allied health, you can start by learning about some of the most popular allied health careers below.
What Is Allied Health?
Allied health are health professionals that play a role in the identification, evaluation and prevention of various conditions and illnesses. They work amongst health care teams in order to provide information to physicians and other providers such as nurses and dentists. They play an essential role when it comes to delivering health care and related services.
According to the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions (ASAHP), allied health professionals make up 60% of the U.S. healthcare workforce. Overall, allied health is a highly sought-after field.
There are several reasons that allied health workers may be in demand. The population is living longer, which creates a need for more health workers in different disciplines to care for patients. Also, advances in medicine are creating various specialties that did not exist years ago.
Allied Health Careers List
There are many different types of allied health professionals, each with their own specialized knowledge and skills. Allied health professional roles can range from roles in diagnostic testing to therapy. Included below are some of the most popular career paths that you can pursue as an allied health professional.
Not all allied health professionals work directly with patients. Medical technologists (also called clinical laboratory scientists or medical laboratory technologists) work behind the scenes, but their role is vital. They manage the testing aspects of a patient’s health information.
Medical technologists analyze and test body tissues and fluids or any other sample removed from a patient for testing. They are also responsible for ensuring lab results from patients are completed in a timely manner.
Advances in medicine and technology have created more of a demand for respiratory therapists. Respiratory therapists treat people of all ages that have breathing problems, such as COPD, asthma, and cystic fibrosis. RTs also provide therapy for premature babies and trauma patients.
Respiratory therapy may include managing a patient’s ventilator, administering breathing treatments, or educating patients about their lung disease. RTs work in acute care hospitals, sub-acute facilities, and rehabilitation centers.
Occupational therapists are professionals who help patients recover from physical or mental illness or injury and regain the ability to perform daily tasks and activities. They work with patients to identify areas of difficulty, such as problems with dressing, bathing, or cooking, and then design and implement treatment plans to help the patient improve their skills and regain independence.
Occupational therapists use a variety of techniques to help patients, including therapeutic exercises, adaptive equipment, and training in daily living skills. They may also work with patients to develop fine motor skills, such as hand dexterity, and improve their coordination and balance.
Physical therapists are healthcare professionals who help patients recover from injury or illness and improve their physical function, mobility, and quality of life. They work with patients who have conditions such as arthritis, back pain, stroke, spinal cord injury, and orthopedic conditions, among others.
Physical therapists assess a patient’s physical abilities and limitations, then develop a treatment plan to help the patient achieve their goals. Treatment may include therapeutic exercises, manual therapy, and the use of assistive devices such as crutches or canes. Physical therapists also educate their patients on proper body mechanics, posture, and injury prevention.
Speech-language pathologists, also known as speech therapists, are healthcare professionals who help individuals with speech and language disorders communicate more effectively. They work with individuals of all ages, from children with developmental speech and language disorders to adults with conditions such as stroke, brain injury, or degenerative diseases.
Speech-language pathologists assess a patient’s speech and language abilities and then develop a treatment plan to help the patient improve their communication skills. Treatment may include exercises to improve speech sounds, training in alternative forms of communication, such as sign language, and strategies for improving language comprehension and expression.
Cath Lab Positions
Cath lab techs spend most of their time in an operating room. Patients rely on these professionals for assisting physicians before, during, and after cardiovascular procedures.
Before and during surgery, the cath lab tech is responsible for ensuring all equipment is functioning properly. They will keep the doctors informed if they notice anything abnormal that needs to be addressed. In some instances, the cath lab tech will help prepare patients for surgery by cleaning, shaving, and if needed – anesthetizing the area of insertion.
These include positions for radiation techs and interventional radiology. These professionals are responsible for performing diagnostic imaging and administering radiation treatments. Working in radiation requires prior knowledge of human anatomy, equipment protocols, safety protocols, and basic patient care.
Some radiation professionals may specialize in a certain area of healthcare, such as cardiovascular, mammography, sonography, or general radiology. Those who specialize in radiation technology most likely deliver services to patients with cancer and other diseases.
A radiologic technologist, also known as a radiographer, is a healthcare professional who specializes in performing diagnostic medical imaging procedures, such as X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and nuclear medicine imaging. They use advanced technology to produce high-quality images that are used by physicians to diagnose and treat medical conditions.
The responsibilities of a radiologic technologist include preparing patients for the imaging procedure, positioning them properly, and operating the imaging equipment to produce the highest-quality images possible. They also ensure that patients are safe during the procedure and follow strict protocols for radiation safety.
Where Do Allied Health Professionals Work?
Allied health professionals provide valuable support and care to patients in a variety of settings. From acute care medical centers to clinics and even home health agencies, allied health professionals play a vital role in enhancing patient care in many settings. Here are some of the most common work settings for an allied health professional.
Acute Care Medical Centers
Acute care medical centers and hospitals are inpatient facilities that care for people with a wide variety of medical conditions, such as orthopedic injuries, heart problems, and cancer. Hospitals and medical centers may vary in size and the specific services offered.
Many types of allied health workers find jobs in acute care hospitals, including ultrasound techs, physician assistants, and nuclear medicine technologists. Allied health professionals that are not involved in direct patient care, such as health information technologists, also work in acute care hospitals and medical centers.
Sub-acute hospitals are also inpatient facilities that care for patients that require ongoing medical care, but at a different level than an acute care hospital. In a sub-acute hospital, patients are usually more stable than those in an acute care facility. In some cases, patients that are discharged from an acute care hospital but still need ongoing care are admitted into a sub-acute facility before going home.
Allied health workers in sub-acute facilities include respiratory therapists, medical lab technicians and speech-language pathologists.
Rehabilitation centers usually provide both inpatient and outpatient treatment. Rehabilitation centers treat people recovering from various conditions and injuries, such as strokes, head trauma, and amputations.
Patients are usually medically stable and able to participate in various types of rehab therapy to relearn skills, improve functioning, and learn to adapt to their condition. Allied health professionals in rehabilitation centers include physical, occupational, and speech therapists.
Skilled Nursing Facilities
Skilled nursing facilities care for patients with various medical needs as they recover from an illness, surgery, or injury. A skilled nursing facility may be a good option for people that are discharged from the hospital but are not well enough to go home. Recreational therapists, clinical nutritionists, and physical therapists are allied health professionals that often work in a skilled nursing facility.
Home Health Agencies
Home health agencies provide medical care to people in their homes. Patients must be stable enough to be cared for at home but can have significant medical problems. Allied health workers that may find jobs in home health include physical, occupational, and respiratory therapists.
Various types of clinics, such as urgent care centers, may also employ allied health workers. Clinics typically provide medical care on an outpatient basis. Allied health professionals at a clinic may include medical assistants, x-ray techs and dental hygienists.
Allied Health Professionals Q&A
What’s the difference between nursing and allied health?
Nursing and allied health are two related but distinct fields in the healthcare industry. Nursing refers to the practice of caring for patients by providing them with medical treatment, therapy, and education. Nurses work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics, and often play a central role in patient care.
On the other hand, allied health refers to a group of healthcare professions who support and enhance the work of nurses and physicians. This includes professionals such as occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech-language pathologists.
While both nursing and allied health professionals play a critical role in patient care, the main difference is that nurses are primarily responsible for direct patient care, while allied health professionals provide support and enhance the care provided by nurses and physicians.
What’s the difference between allied health professionals and other health professionals?
The main difference between allied health professionals and other health professionals is that allied professionals provide support and enhance the work of physicians and nurses, while the other healthcare professionals are responsible for the direct delivery of healthcare services to patients.
What’s the career outlook for allied health professionals?
The career outlook for allied health professionals is generally positive, with many fields experiencing growth and high demand for qualified professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of many allied health professions is projected to grow faster than average for all occupations.
Some of the fastest-growing allied health careers include:
- Speech-Language Pathologists. Speech-language pathology jobs are projected to grow 21% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.
- Physical Therapists and Physical Therapy Assistants. Physical therapy jobs are projected to grow 17% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.
- Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants. Occupational therapy jobs are projected to grow 14% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.
- Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians. Employment is projected to grow 7% from 2021 to 2031, slightly faster than the average for all occupations.
- Radiologic and MRI Technologists. Both radiologic technologist jobs and MRI tech jobs are projected to grow 6% from 2021 to 2031, slightly faster than the average for all occupations.
This growth in allied health occupations is due to several factors, including an aging population and increasing demand for healthcare services. Advances in medical technology and increased awareness of the benefits of rehabilitation and other allied health services are also contributing to the growth of these careers.
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