What is a healthcare professional: roles & responsibilities

18.01.2022 ∙ Roman Danaev ∙ 10 min read

Health professionals are critical players for healthcare quality and access globally. A health professional is trained personnel working in healthcare or a health-related field.

There are many types of healthcare professionals. Each of them focuses on a specific sector in the healthcare industry. Ever since the pandemic struck, the healthcare sector of society has been working non-stop to give service to others.

But this industry is so big that most people don’t really understand who these professionals are. We’ll discuss who these people really are and what specific roles and responsibilities they play in society and in our lives.

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Who is a healthcare professional?

There are about 59 million healthcare workers worldwide. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), these health professionals are classified by their education, training, and licensing to perform medical services. They’re trained to provide essential health services to prevent diseases, promote health, and care for individuals, families, and communities based on the primary health care approach.

These medical professionals care for patients using their skills and practice based on research and existing knowledge. They perform examinations, make diagnoses, and treat injuries and illnesses.

Generally, healthcare workers have the following qualities:

  • Technical skills and knowledge
  • Emotional stability
  • Attention to detail
  • Empathy
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Communication and interpersonal skills

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People in this industry are exposed to different health and safety hazards when working. These hazards include exposure to diseases like tuberculosis and HIV or chemicals like ethylene dioxide. They’re also constantly exposed to radiation and noise, stress, and physical exhaustion.

Healthcare professionals may work under these industry segments:

  • Hospitals
  • Offices for physicians, dentists, general practitioners, and others
  • Home healthcare services
  • Nursing and residential aged care facilities
  • Ambulatory services

Who is considered to be a qualified healthcare professional?

Individuals qualified by education, training, and licensure or regulation are the only people who can give healthcare professional services in different medical and health areas. They can give service within their scope of practice.

Role of a healthcare professional

Healthcare professionals perform critical roles in everyone’s lives by:

  • Educating communities about prevention, cures, and other health tips
  • Providing preventive medication
  • Giving out information about healthy lifestyles
  • Preventing diseases from spreading

Why do we need healthcare professionals?

Technological advancements, shifts in demographics, and even political changes affect the healthcare system. This will continue and can impact the future of the industry. Because of this, the importance of healthcare workers is very evident.

Here are some of the reasons why we need them:

Political advancements

The evolution of politics greatly affects laws and policies regarding healthcare systems. This means that when influenced by politics, changes to healthcare will be enforced. To implement and accommodate these changes, the industry needs capable and well-versed professionals.

Some healthcare professionals may even get involved in healthcare policy-related careers and become analysts, researchers, or managers.

Aging population of baby boomers

According to Statista, in 2019, there were approximately 20 million UK citizens who were born between 1946 and 1964. This generation is called the “Baby Boomers.” The oldest members reached retirement as early as 2012. Most baby boomers will retire by 2030. They’ll mostly rely on healthcare resources like Medicare or Medicaid.

This foreseen increase in patients needs an increase in healthcare professionals to maintain efficient healthcare.

Technological advancements in the healthcare industry

Healthcare technology influences the industry with advancements in data collection, research, and treatment options. More equipment is being invented, like home diagnostics and monitoring devices.

With all these changes, there’s a greater need for healthcare informatics professionals that can create, analyze, and handle these new technologies.

Growing biopharmaceutical industry

According to the report of Evaluate Pharma in July 2021, worldwide prescription sales in the industry will continue to move upward with a peak forecast of US$1 trillion by 2026. This leads to a growing demand for professionals in the field.

Types of healthcare professionals list

These health professionals belong to many healthcare subcategories. Each focuses on one type of care service to aid society.

Primary care professionals

A primary care provider (PCP) is the professional you go to for checkups and health problems. They’re physicians with patients who seek help in determining the cause of their problems. PCPs can be one of these people:

  • OB/GYN – Doctors with specializations in obstetrics and gynaecology.
  • General Doctors – Doctors who specialize in paediatrics, family, or internal medicine and usually work with physician assistants.
  • Assistant Physicians – Provide a wide range of healthcare services in collaboration with an M.D. or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.).
  • Nurse practitioners – Registered nurses that have completed a specialization in geriatrics, adult care, paediatrics, or family practice.

Nursing care professionals

There are various types of professionals under this category:

  • Registered Nurses – Nurses who have graduated with a nursing diploma and are licensed to work in that specific vocation.
  • Licensed Practical Nurses – These are state-licensed caregivers that went through the required training to handle different medical conditions and care for the sick.
  • Advanced Practice Nurses – Nurses with more education and experience than the two others mentioned in the list. They can get their training in domains like prenatal care, community health, cardiac health, psychiatry, and anaesthesia to provide advanced care and services.

Drug therapy professionals

They’re professionals who graduated from pharmaceutical universities. They’re licensed pharmacists that had training from a college of pharmacy that allows them to provide medicine to patients.

Pharmacists prepare and process drug prescriptions written by primary and speciality care providers. They consult on dosage, interactions, and side effects of the medicines.

Specialty care professionals

These are doctors with specializations in one field of medicine after extensive study. A primary care provider can refer you to care professionals with specialities in:

  • Allergy
  • Asthma
  • Cardiology
  • Dermatology
  • Endocrinology
  • General surgery
  • Haematology
  • Infectious disease
  • Nephrology
  • Neurology
  • Oncology
  • Orthopaedics
  • Psychiatry
  • Radiology
  • Urology, and more

Therapists

These are specialists with a different area of expertise than doctors. Therapists are professionals who help patients recover from illness and injuries by working on the physical aspects of the body like speech, movement, and coordination.

How to become a healthcare professional

Becoming a healthcare professional isn’t easy, and it takes a long time. Here’s a checklist on how you can become one:

  • Graduate School: An undergraduate degree and four years of medical school. Graduating college with a bachelor’s degree in a medical-related field is good, but if you want to pursue advanced careers, you need to study and graduate in a master’s or doctoral program. You can get a degree in a certain field or the area you prefer.
  • Get Certifications: These are essentials for healthcare professionals. You’d need to be licensed and board-certified to practice your specialization in your state. Although a license is mandatory, certification is optional.
  • Gain More Knowledge: You can attend conferences to learn more and network with professionals. You can also volunteer at a facility to gain more experience and understanding of real-life situations.

Summary

Healthcare professionals make up a large portion of our population and play an integral role in our lives. They provide health, medicine, and care services to people with injuries, illnesses, and other impairments. There are many of them, and each specializes in a certain area of expertise. With an ever-changing society, these healthcare professionals are more important now than ever.

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