By Nancy Meredith
The week of November 7th is National Allied Health Professionals Week and brings to light many of the health care professions in the industry that are distinct from doctors and nurses. Allied health professionals collaborate with physicians and other members of the health care team to deliver patient care services. 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. Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, it can be treated with varying degrees of success through the use of surgical procedures, chemotherapy and radiation.
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 2 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 and nurses. Following is a short list of allied health professionals that may be involved in the care of a mesothelioma patient:
- Respiratory Therapists. These 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 for the mesothelioma patient including therapeutic treatments and diagnostic procedures.
- Anesthesiologist Assistants. Under supervision of licensed anesthesiologists (doctors), anesthesiologist assistants can operate anesthesia equipment, monitor patients, and assist in providing patient care before, during and after anesthesia.
- Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Specialists. These rehab specialists help patients understand and manage their mesothelioma 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 mesothelioma. 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. For a list of Allied Health Professionals see ExploreHealthCareers.org.