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A health professional (or healthcare professional) may provide health care treatment and advice based on formal training and experience. The field includes those who work as a physician, surgeon, physician assistant, medical assistant, nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, dentist, midwife, psychologist, psychiatrist, pharmacist or who perform services in allied health professions. A health professional may also be a public health or community health practitioner.

Practitioners and professionals

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healthcare workforce comprises a wide variety of professions and occupations who provide some type of healthcare service, including such direct care practitioners as physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, respiratory therapists, dentists, pharmacists, occupational therapists, physical and behavior therapists, as well as allied health professionals such as phlebotomists, medical laboratory scientists, dieticians, and social workers. They often work in hospitals, healthcare centres and other service delivery points, but also in academic training, research, and administration. Some provide care and treatment services for patients in private homes. Many countries have a large number of community health workers who work outside formal healthcare institutions. Managers of healthcare services, health information technicians, and other assistive personnel and support workers are also considered a vital part of health care teams.[1]

Healthcare practitioners are commonly grouped into health professions. Within each field of expertise, practitioners are often classified according to skill level and skill specialization. “Health professionals” are highly skilled workers, in professions that usually require extensive knowledge including university-level study leading to the award of a first degree or higher qualification.[2] This category includes physicians, physician assistants, dentists, midwives, radiographers, registered nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, optometrists, operating department practitioners and others. Allied health professionals, also referred to as "health associate professionals" in the International Standard Classification of Occupations, support implementation of health care, treatment and referral plans usually established by medical, nursing, respiratory care, and other health professionals, and usually require formal qualifications to practice their profession. In addition, unlicensed assistive personnel assist with providing health care services as permitted.

Another way to categorize healthcare practitioners is according to the sub-field in which they practice, such as mental health care, pregnancy and childbirth care, surgical care, rehabilitation care, or public health.

Mental health practitioners

A mental health practitioner is a health worker who offers services to improve the mental health of individuals or treat mental illness. These include psychiatrists, psychiatry physician assistants, clinical psychologists, occupational therapists, clinical social workers, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, as well as other health professionals and allied health professions. These health care providers often deal with the same illnesses, disorders, conditions, and issues; however, their scope of practice often differs. The most significant difference across categories of mental health practitioners is education and training.[3]

Maternal and newborn health practitioners

A maternal and newborn health practitioner is a health worker who deals with the care of women and their children before, during and after pregnancy and childbirth. Such health practitioners include obstetricians, physician assistants, midwives, obstetrical nurses and many others. One of the main differences between these professions is in the training and authority to provide surgical services and other life-saving interventions.[4] In some developing countries, traditional birth attendants, or traditional midwives, are the primary source of pregnancy and childbirth care for many women and families, although they are not certified or licensed.

Geriatric care practitioners

A geriatric care practitioner plans and coordinates the care of the elderly and/or disabled to promote their health, improve their quality of life, and maintain their independence for as long as possible. They include geriatricians, occupational therapists, physician assistants, adult-gerontology nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, geriatric clinical pharmacists, geriatric nurses, geriatric care managers, geriatric aides, Nursing aides, Caregivers and others who focus on the health and psychological care needs of older adults.

Surgical practitioners

A surgical practitioner is a healthcare professional who specializes in the planning and delivery of a patient's perioperative care, including during the anaesthetic, surgical and recovery stages. They may include general and specialist surgeons, physician assistants, , assistant surgeon, surgical assistant, anesthesiologists, anesthesiologist assistant, nurse anesthetists, surgical nurses, clinical officers, operating department practitioners, anaesthetic technicians, perioperative nursing, surgical technologists, and others.

Rehabilitation care practitioners

A rehabilitation care practitioner is a health worker who provides care and treatment which aims to enhance and restore functional ability and quality of life to those with physical impairments or disabilities. These include physiatrists, physician assistants, rehabilitation nurses, clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, physiotherapists, chiropractors, orthotists, prosthetists, occupational therapists, recreational therapists, audiologists, speech and language pathologists, respiratory therapists, rehabilitation counsellors, physical rehabilitation therapists, athletic trainers, physiotherapy technicians, orthotic technicians, prosthetic technicians, personal care assistants, and others.[5]

Eye care practitioners

Care and treatment for the eye and the adnexa may be delivered by ophthalmologists specializing in surgical/medical care, or optometrists specializing in refractive management and medical/therapeutic care. Physician assistants also practice in collaboration with ophthalmologists in this area of medicine.

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