According to The Association of Schools for Allied Health Professions website (2016), allied health professions include dieticians, medical technologists, respiratory therapists, speech language pathologists, physical therapists, and dental hygienists, among others. As a member of a health management team, I would interact with multiple specialties depending on my location. Two allied health specialties that I have chosen to investigate are dental hygienists and dieticians. I will review the specialties that will interact with these departments during a typical day working in a hospital, a long-term care facility, and an outpatient clinic.
Overview of Function
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (2015), dental hygienists clean teeth, check for signs of diseases of the mouth, and work in preventing dental decay. Furthermore, dental hygienists inform patients on proper oral hygiene. In particular, they are responsible for removing plaque from teeth, taking and developing dental x-rays, and documenting treatment information in the patient’s charts. According to this website, dental hygienists typically work in outpatient treatment settings, though it is plausible to expect that dental hygienists would be present in some long-term care facilities.
In terms of the specialties with whom dental hygienists interact, they mainly interact with dentists, who supervise their work. Dental hygienists may have some contact with nurses if they work in a hospital.
Cross-training to be a dental hygienist could be plausible, but it would require additional education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015), an associate’s degree in dental hygiene is required. Although it may be time consuming, I would consider being cross-trained in this allied health specialty as the Bureau states that employment of dental hygienists is projected to grow 19% by 2024.
If a facility did not have a dental hygienist, the dentist at the facility could take over duties. It is unclear how financially feasible this would be due to the specialized training of a dentist.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (2015) states that the function of a dietician is to assess patients’ nutritional plan and needs, while providing counseling and education on healthy eating habits. Moreover, dieticians may provide educational speeches to members of the community.
In terms of the specialties with whom dieticians interact, they mainly interact with physicians, who may need to closely attend to the dietary needs of their patients, especially those who are candidates for gastric bypass surgery. Furthermore, dieticians may interact with pharmacists, who may prescribe weight-loss aids to patients in need. Within a hospital setting, dieticians will most likely interact with physicians and nurses. In an outpatient setting, dieticians would work most directly with the client, but may consult with a referring physician. In a long-term care facility, dieticians will work with nurses and possibly geriatric-focused physicians.
Cross-training to be a nutritionist would be time-consuming compared to cross-training in other areas. Specifically, dieticians need a four-year bachelor’s degree in order to practice, and many have master’s degrees. Moreover, a clinical internship is needed post-graduation.
If a facility did not have a dietician, it would be difficult to appropriately meet client needs in an ethical manner. While nurses and physicians can offer general nutritional advice, patients would not receive the same level of care as could be provided by a registered dietician.
- Association of Schools for Allied Health Professions. (2016). About us. Retrieved from: http://www.asahp.org/about-us/
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2015). Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved from: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm