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