Allied health and your health care team
Allied health professionals play an important role maintaining and improving community health and wellbeing.
They work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private practice, residential aged care facilities, community care, schools and universities.
Sally’s story – managing diabetes
At 45, Sally was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. As part of her care plan, Sally’s GP refers her to several allied health professionals, including:
- a dietitian
- a podiatrist
- an exercise physiologist.
The GP also writes Sally a prescription for a medication to help control her blood sugar.
Dietitian: Sally books an appointment with a dietitian. The dietitian spends time discussing the details of Sally’s food and medical history with her. They work together to develop an individualised meal plan that suits Sally’s individual health care needs and preferences.
Podiatrist: Sally attends a podiatry clinic. Type 2 diabetes can lead to serious complications affecting the feet and toes. The podiatrist examines her feet, and treats areas at risk. The podiatrist talks with Sally about how she can take care of her feet and shows her what to look for when choosing footwear. The podiatrist lets Sally know how important it is to get her feet checked regularly. They agree for Sally to return in 12 months for a review.
Exercise physiologist: Sally makes an appointment with an exercise physiologist. They talk about the types of exercise and activities that Sally enjoys doing. Together they develop an exercise plan that suits Sally’s individual preferences, needs, and level of fitness. Sally can do the exercises in the comfort of her own home. She feels informed about the vital role exercise plays in diabetes management.
Pharmacist: Sally takes her prescription to the local pharmacy. The pharmacist explains how the medication works and how best to take it. Every time Sally gets her prescription repeats filled, her pharmacist takes the opportunity to see how she is finding the new medication and whether she has any questions about her treatment.
After seeing these allied health professionals, Sally feels more informed and confident in managing her type 2 diabetes.
Omar’s story – recovering from a stroke
Omar is a 65-year-old man who was recently discharged from hospital after having a stroke. Omar is lucky that his stroke was not severe and the medical team in the hospital treated him quickly. But he still has some loss of function that needs support from several allied health professionals. After his hospital discharge, he continues to see:
- an occupational therapist
- a physiotherapist
- a speech pathologist
- a psychologist.
Occupational therapist: Omar receives a home visit from an occupational therapist to help him relearn how to do everyday tasks, such as showering and getting dressed. They work together to understand what everyday activities Omar wants to resume now that he’s out of hospital. Omar wants to be cleanly shaven each morning, but he is having some trouble using his preferred hand. The occupational therapist develops a plan to help Omar gradually build strength in his hand. His hand starts working better after a few weeks.
Physiotherapist: Omar makes an appointment with a physiotherapist to help him with some balance issues he has been having since the stroke. They work together to develop a rehabilitation plan designed around Omar’s goals and needs. The physiotherapist’s exercises help Omar strengthen his muscles, improve coordination and regain mobility.
Speech pathologist: Omar has been having difficulty with his speech, sometimes slurring his words and getting stuck mid-sentence. Omar sees a speech pathologist. Together they work through exercises to help him practise speaking, and strategies for what to do when he is struggling to talk.
Psychologist: Omar has been feeling upset about his ongoing symptoms after the stroke. On some days, his low mood stops him from doing the home rehabilitation exercises given to him by his allied health team. Omar’s GP refers him to a psychologist to talk about how he is feeling. The psychologist listens to Omar to understand what aspects of his symptoms are bothering him, and gives him some strategies to help him cope.
After regular sessions with these allied health professionals, Omar can take significant steps on his rehabilitation journey.