This week is National Allied Health Professionals Week. The week brings to light the number of health care professionals, that are distinct from doctors and nurses, who provide for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of patients. They also provide support in the prevention, identification and treatment of diseases. Due to the rare and complex nature of mesothelioma, a large number of allied health professionals are needed to provide the appropriate level of support mesothelioma patients require.
Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer typically affecting the lining of the lungs, is highly aggressive and is resistant to many standard cancer treatments, making it a difficult disease to treat effectively. Patients often undergo surgical procedures, chemotherapy and radiation, interacting with a variety of allied health professionals during each medical appointment.
Allied health professionals are either technicians (assistants) or therapists/technologists. Technicians are trained to perform procedures, but are required to work under the supervision of technologists or therapists. Typically, a technologist gets a certificate with two years or less of higher education, and includes professions such as physical therapy assistants, medical laboratory technicians, radiological technicians and respiratory therapy technicians.
Therapists or technologists are able to evaluate patients, diagnose conditions, develop treatment plans, and understand the rationale behind various treatments. Therapists or technologists learn to evaluate patients’ responses to therapy and to assist with decisions concerning continued treatment or modification of treatment plans.
Since mesothelioma is such a complex disease, it is important for patients to receive multidisciplinary care from a team of specialists that is not limited to physicians or nurses. Following is a short list of allied health professionals that may be involved in the care of a mesothelioma patient:
- Respiratory Therapists. Evaluate, treat and care for patients with breathing or other cardiopulmonary disorders. Highly trained respiratory therapists may assume primary responsibility for all respiratory care, therapeutic treatments and diagnostic procedures.
- Anesthesiologist Assistants. Under supervision of licensed anesthesiologists (doctors), they operate anesthesia equipment, monitor patients, and assist in providing patient care before, during and after anesthesia.
- Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Specialist. Help patients understand and manage their heart or lung disease so they can live longer and do more, primarily by making sure the patient understands his condition and his medical regimen.
- Clinical Laboratory Science professionals. While not directly involved in the care of the patient, a medical technologist can discover the presence or absence of a disease. They typically maintain vital data for identifying and treating mesothelioma and other health conditions.
- Health Information Manager. These professionals manage and maintain all of the medical information vital to providing care to the patient. The health manager must capture each piece of information that is tracked every time a health care personnel treats the patient including medical history, results of examinations, results of X-rays and laboratory tests, diagnoses, and treatment plans.
According to ExploreHealthCareers.org there are 5 million allied health care providers in the U.S., who work in more than 80 different professions. Thank you to all Allied Health Professionals! For a list of Allied Health Professionals see ExploreHealthCareers.org .