If you don’t work in healthcare you may not be familiar with the term “allied health”.
But, even if you’ve never heard of it, chances are you would have been treated by an allied health professional at some point in your life.
This essential workforce provides a huge range of health services that aren’t considered medical, dental or nursing, such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy, psychology, optometry, sonography, speech pathology and much more.
There are around 195,000 allied health professionals in Australia, delivering an estimated 200 million services. And, behind the scenes, there are busy teams of allied health assistants playing a very important role in making it all possible.
Here’s what you need to know about a career in allied health assistance:
What do allied health assistants do?
Just as the allied health industry is varied, so is the work of allied health assistants.
You’ll be working under the direction of an allied health professional and this is usually on goal-based therapy for clients.
Tasks can include providing patient care and encouraging patients to complete specific treatment plans related to injury, illness or disability-related physical issues. You may support these health professionals in handling appointments, coordinating health and welfare programs and managing administrative tasks relating to patient care.
Chisholm Institute allied health assistance teacher Nicole O’Shannessy says the most common areas to find work are physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, dietetics, social work and podiatry.
“There are other opportunities including music therapy, radiology, exercise physiology, prosthetics and orthotics,” Nicole says. “There is scope for assistance in many other areas, and it’s definitely a job career that has yet to reach its full potential.”
Why choose to work as an allied health assistant?
Working as an allied health assistant is a rewarding job, which allows you to help people who are in need.
You could find yourself working in a range of settings such as community centres, hospitals and rehabilitation areas, as well as assisting with clients of all ages and abilities.
As the demand for therapy programs in hospital and community settings rise, allied health assistants will play an increasingly important role in the rehabilitation of clients and patients, and promotion of optimal health outcomes.
What attributes do I need?
You’ll need to have impeccable communication skills, the ability to follow direction and show initiative, and be able to work in a team.
What are the challenges?
The job is physically and emotionally demanding. Sometimes you may have to work with complex cases, or patients who are ‘difficult’ due to illness or injury.
“The personal nature of the work means that you may developed relationships with some clients, opening yourself up to emotional distress if their condition worsens or they pass away,” Nicole says.
Which courses should I consider?
The Certificate III in Allied Health Assistance (HLT33015) qualification will enable you to work in entry level positions across a wide range of positions in the health sector such as patient care assistant, occupational therapy assistant and physiotherapy assistant. As allied health assistance has been identified by the Victorian Government as an area that is in demand by Victorian employers, the course has been included in the Free TAFE for Priority Courses program.
The course can also be a pathway to further qualifications such as a Diploma of Nursing (HLT54115), a Certificate IV in Ageing Support (CHC43015), or you could consider a university degree to become an allied health professional.