Last post, we talked about where health care professionals go to receive their training and how they are kept to the accepted standard of safe and effective practice for their disciplines. In today's post, I'll expand that conversation by talking about some of the different roles and responsibilities that exist within the health care system, using the terms "clinical" to describe those who provide care directly to patients, like nurses and physicians, and "non-clinical" to describe the roles of those who support the people who deliver direct patient care by, for example, leading overall health care delivery strategy as a senior manager, health system finances as an accountant, the hiring of health care workers as a human resources consultant, developing health policy as a government policy analyst, providing disinfection and cleaning services as a facility cleaner, or preparing meals for patients as a kitchen cook. All these roles work closely together in the same way that a car engine is composed of many parts; when all parts work seamlessly together, all you’ll experience is a safe and uneventful journey.
Let's start with clinicians, a category that includes doctors, nurses, surgeons, physiotherapists and psychologists, just to name a few. Clinicians often provide and manage font-line care delivery--that is, health care services offered to patients directly by assessment and intervention, during recovery or for comfort. These roles are often classified by the health condition in which they are expert in treating—for example, for problems with hearing, you would visit an audiologist; if you find yourself with foot pain, you may visit a podiatrist. Each clinical discipline is unique, though some disciplines, like doctors and nurses, provide more "generalist" health care services that diagnose, treat and manage a wide range of health conditions, whereas for more specific health issues, a patient may be referred to a clinical expert for that issue, like the audiologist or podiatrist mentioned earlier. You can open this list of clinical providers to see the breadth of roles that exist in this category. The clinical roles listed in that link are much the same in other provinces and countries, including the United States, with only slight variation depending on the country and its legislative rules and the breadth of health care educational institutions available.
We talked about clinical roles, but how about non-clinical roles? Often clinicians want to simply practice their clinical disciplines and serve patients rather than worry about the complexity of managing a health care delivery practice—that is, managing appointments with patients, paying salaries, hiring complimentary health care professionals, buying land and building facilities, buying and maintaining health care related equipment and technologies, educating staff, developing health care policy and procedures or making and serving food to patients. While there is nothing preventing clinicians from performing these activities themselves, partnering with non-clinical roles can help them provide more timely and effective care. And when an increase in scale is needed, these partnerships become even more important when moving from a health care delivery system that serves only a few hundred patients per day to thousands. Non-clinical roles can include business managers, accountants, human resources professionals, engineers, architects, contract and supply coordinators, health policy makers, researchers, patient care advocates, politicians, experts in the development and use of health care technology, facility maintenance (i.e., plumbers or clinical engineers) and information management and technology analysts, just to name a few.
In the next post, I'll discuss the kinds of physical spaces that are commonly used by health care professionals.