From Respiratory Care to Dental Hygiene to Nuclear Medicine, Most Health Care Workers Are Allied Health Professionals

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – More than half of those working in health care today are in professions other than doctor or nurse – professions that are in increasingly high demand as the population of Arkansas and the rest of the United States ages. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) offers educational programs in 17 of these allied health professions, which can lead to varied and rewarding careers.


Radiologic technologists, paramedics, dental hygienists and respiratory therapists are members of the broad range of allied health professions that together with doctors, nurses and pharmacists make up the modern health care team. The Health Professions Network estimated that nearly 7.8 million work in the allied health professions, making up 60 percent of the 12.9 million jobs in health care, based on labor statistics. 


Allied Health Professions Week, Nov. 6-12, is a national celebration to honor these health care workers in more than 100 different fields. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2010, the growth in the number of job openings in health careers will be double that of non-health careers – meaning more job opportunities in the allied professions.


“The UAMS College of Health Related Professions offers career preparation to suit many different interests with jobs that are in demand,” said Ronald Winters, Ph.D., dean of the UAMS College of Health Related Professions. “We encourage people seeking interesting and rewarding jobs to consider one of these professions.”


Allied health professionals can be found in every part of the health care system.


UAMS programs involving direct patient care include emergency first responders such as emergency medical technicians or paramedics. Respiratory therapists assess and treat lung and breathing problems. Ophthalmic medical technologists conduct many vision tests and work alongside eye doctors, while surgical technologists assist surgeons and help surgical patients.


Technology has given us medical devices, such as CT scanners and magnetic resonance imaging systems, which allow better diagnosis and treatment of problems from cancer to broken bones. The professionals in the imaging and radiation sciences who operate these devices include sonographers, nuclear medicine technologists and radiologic technologists. Radiation therapists and medical dosimetrists use computers, focused radiation sources, and imaging techniques in cancer treatment.


Those working in laboratory sciences include cytotechnologists, who analyze cells to identify cancer. There are medical technologists, who use lab instruments to test samples of blood and other body fluids, providing information essential to diagnosis and treatment.


Beyond acute medical care, allied health care professionals can be found in clinics, schools or other settings. These include audiologists and speech pathologists, who identify and treat hearing and speech impairments. There is the dietician, who understands nutritional needs and the role nutrition plays in disease prevention and treatment. Genetic counselors help individuals and families seeking information about genetic diseases and birth defects.


The allied health professions extend to administrative work with the growing field of health information management. These professionals compile, code, analyze and prepare health information for patients, health care facilities and insurance companies.


“The College of Health Related Professions has developed one of the most comprehensive selections of allied health programs in the United States,” said Michael Anders, the college’s director of student affairs. “Across all of our programs, we have a history of excellent pass rates on national board and licensure exams.”


Admission criteria and deadlines, program lengths and degrees offered vary according to the academic program. For more information about these allied health programs at UAMS, call 501-686-5730 or visit


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, five centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,320 students and 690 residents and is the state’s largest public employer with almost 9,000 employees. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.3 billion a year.


UAMS centers of excellence are the Arkansas Cancer Research Center, Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy and Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute.