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National Allied Health Professions Week

National Allied Health Professions Week

The healthcare field is a complex network of professions and disciplines, and very little exemplifies the vast number of specialized roles available in healthcare more than allied health. Allied health professions are generally defined as ones distinct from medicine and nursing. In a time of increasing healthcare needs and an aging population, these professionals fill vital roles in delivering medical care.

Allied Healthcare Professions Professionals

Physician Assistants

Physician assistants (PAs) are a vital but underappreciated component of our health care system, a segment of the medical workforce that has both grown significantly and also filled gaps in health care availability during a time when physicians have been in short supply. You may be surprised to learn just how prevalent they are:

  • Over 115,000 PAs currently practice in the United States.
  • The number of PAs rose 13% from 2015 to 2017.
  • The number of PAs per physician rose 23% from 2015 to 2017. There are on average 128 PAs to every 1,000 physicians.

The highest concentrations of PAs are in general practice and family medicine, making up nearly 20% of practitioners. Occupational medicine and orthopedic surgery have the highest PA-per-physician ratios. PAs have become not only commonplace, but instrumental in delivering health care in many different types of practices.


Physical Therapy

Physical Therapists

Physical therapy is the a discipline that addresses illnesses and injuries that limit mobility and daily functioning. It's a complex discipline that can provide many benefits and be utilized as part of a recovery or rehabilitation program for any number of conditions. It is often utilized in conjunction with other medical disciplines.

Physical therapists (PTs) represent one of the largest segments of allied health employment, and one of the fastest-growing industries in the nation:

  • Over 247,000 PTs currently practice in the United States.
  • The number of PTs is expected to grow 22% from 2018-2028, far higher than the average 5% occupational growth rate.

The amount of conditions that physical therapists treat is expansive and has led to many specializations within the disciplines. These include:

  • Musculoskeletal therapy.
  • Orthopedic therapy.
  • Sports medicine.
  • Cardiopulmonary therapy.
  • Neurological rehabilitation.
  • Endocrinology therapy.

With such a variety of benefits, it's clear that physical therapy has something to offer anyone, and this is possibly its greatest strength: adaptability. Physical therapy programs are designed to meet each individual patient's needs, and this plan is created alongside the patient. Patients rehabilitating an injury or dealing with chronic pain can be involved in their recovery in a way that increases your independence. Even before treatment begins, the planning process restores a sense of autonomy that may have been lost.

Interested in physical therapy? You may also want to consider related careers such as:

  • Occupational therapy.
  • Athletic training.
  • Kinesiotherapy.
  • Exercise physiology.
  • Osteopathy.
  • Massage therapy.
  • Nutrition and dietetics.

Emergency Medical Personnel

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics have some of the most dramatic and demanding roles in health care. Professionals in these fields often work 12- or 24-hour shifts, and they one of the highest occupational rates of injury and illness due to the physical strenuousness of the job. They also have some of the most necessary and in-demand roles, so much so that 50% of all EMTs are volunteers. The numbers of fully employed emergency medical personnel continue to grow:

  • Over 262,000 EMTs and paramedics currently work in the United States.
  • The occupation is expected to grow 7% from 2018-2028.
  • 54 percent of EMTs and paramedics work in rural areas.

That last statistic is telling - EMTs and paramedics provide vital, lifesaving care to underserved communities. Responding to emergency calls, assessing patients' conditions, and transporting patients to medical facilities is crucial in areas where health care may not be immediately accessible. And with an increasing population of older Americans, health emergencies due to heart attacks, strokes, and even falls increase as well.

Respiratory Therapy

Respiratory Therapists

November is COPD Awareness Month, reminding us that the need for specialists in respiratory health has never been higher. The rates of chronic respiratory diseases have risen 30 percent since 1980 in the United States alone, much of which is attributable to the long-term effects of smoking. It's no surprise, then, that respiratory therapy has grown so much:

  • Over 134,000 respiratory therapists current practice in the United States.
  • The occupation is expected to grow 21% from 2018-2028.

An aging population requires a great deal of attention for respiratory issues, as older adults are susceptible to sleep apnea, COPD, emphysema, bronchitis, cardiac arrest, and lung cancer. The conditions that respiratory therapists treat don't just afflict older adults or smokers, though:

  • Over 6.1 million children have asthma, the most common chronic condition among children.
  • Half of all hospitalizations for pneumonia happen to younger adults (ages 17 to 57). Pneumonia is the most common cause of hospital admissions in the U.S. outside of childbirth.

Respiratory therapy is valuable to patients in many respects, from prevention to diagnosis to treatment. Therapists educate on cardiopulmonary health, perform intensive diagnostic evaluations, and develop treatment plans for living with chronic respiratory disease that can encompass every aspect of a patient's life. They can work in a hospital setting or a home care setting, where they help patients learn how to use and maintain complex life-support systems like ventilators, and can even make emergency visits.

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