A patient could be forgiven for thinking that the majority of care in hospitals is done by doctors and nursing staff.
In fact, there are numerous other professionals involved in providing a high level of care and contributing to the best possible outcome for every patient.
The inaugural Allied Health Week, which runs from Monday, March 25 to Friday, March 29, aims to highlight the range of different services allied health professionals (AHPs) bring to the patient’s journey.
“The idea started in March last year,” Allied Health (Science) clinical educator Merilynn Cree said.
“Many disciplines lack a specific awareness week - we thought we could cover patient outcomes as a group. We wanted to showcase that we don’t work in isolation – it’s a team effort.”
“It’s the first time we’ve had a co-ordinated approach, so that people in smaller rural health services have access to the expertise of the big health services,” Allied Health (Therapy) education and research co-ordinator Katherine Lowe said. “Nobody has tried this before – it’s a model that other services could take on in future.”
“People say that health care is like a three-legged stool,” Ms Cree said. “Doctors are one leg, nurses another and AHPs are the third. If you remove a leg, the stool falls over.”
An example of this would be if you attend hospital with a suspected stroke. You would be seen by one or more doctors and nurses in the emergency department. You would need a CT scan conducted by a radiographer, a blood test which would be done by medical scientists in the pathology department, and you may also see a speech pathologist.
If medication was needed, the pharmacist is an integral allied health professional who would ensure your medications were safe and would not interact with other medications.
After admission to the medical or rehabilitation ward you would be likely to have professional care from a physiotherapist, occupational therapist and social worker. You might also see a dietitian and/or exercise physiologist.
All healthcare professionals may be involved in care at multiple points during a hospital admission.
Allied Health Week is co-ordinated by the Allied Health Educators Group (AHEG) North East and Goulburn Valley. This group was formed in 2012 with core membership from GV Health, Albury Wodonga Health and Northeast Health Wangaratta. AHEG has representation from all levels of health services in the region and is a valuable forum for sharing of education opportunities across the region.
Allied health educator roles support staff education for all staff, students and graduates, and encourage work experience placements for students.
“Allied health professionals are passionate about what they do,” Ms Lowe said. “They always seek to learn new things in order to improve outcomes for every patient. Everything they do is directed towards providing high quality of care to each patient.”
“The next time you visit the hospital, look around and see how many AHPs you can identify,” Ms Cree said. “There are probably more than you expect!”
For more information about Allied Health services offered at GVH, please visit gvhealth.org.au/services/allied-health/
What do Allied Health Professionals Do?
There are 27 different professions recognised as AHPs in Victoria.
While not all are found in every health service, there will be a range of different professions according to the spectrum of patient care provided.
AHPs are a diverse group of professionals with a wide range of specialist skills. These are broadly classified under the groupings of therapy and science. While you are not likely to need all of these people in a single visit to hospital, it is likely that you will need one or more of them.
The recognised AHP roles are:
Allied health assistant
Oral health (not dentistry)
Orthotics and prosthetics
Diagnostic imaging medical physics
Medical laboratory science
Radiation oncology medical physics
Be sure to watch the video featuring Chief Allied Health Officer Gayle Sammut featured in the header above.