Pre-Health Advisement

Overview of Health Professions

Compiled from information published by the American Medical Association's 30th edition of the Health Professions Career and Education Directory.

Professions frequently pursued by Hofstra students after graduation

Physicians serve a fundamental role in our society and have an effect upon all our lives. They diagnose illnesses and prescribe and administer treatment from people suffering from injury or disease. They examine patients, obtain medical histories, and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventative health care. There are two types of physicians: The M.D.-Doctor of Medicine-and the D.O.-Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. About one-third of M.D.'s are primary care physicians. They practice general and family medicine, general internal medicine, or general pediatrics and are usually the first health professionals patients consult. D.O.'s place special emphasis on the body's musculoskeletal system, preventative medicine, and holistic patient health care.

The physician assistant is academically and clinically prepared to practice medicine with the direction and responsible supervision of a doctor of medicine or osteopathy. The physician-PA team relationship is fundamental to the PA profession and enhances the delivery of high-quality health care. Within the physician-PA relationship, PAs make clinical decisions and provide a broad range of diagnostic, therapeutic, preventive, and health maintenance services. The clinical role of PAs includes primary and specialty care in medical and surgical practice settings. PA practice is centered on patient care and may include educational, research, and administrative activities. The role of the physician assistant demands intelligence, sound judgment, intellectual honesty, appropriate interpersonal skills, and the capacity to react to emergencies in a calm and reasoned manner. An attitude of respect for self and others, adherence to the concepts of privilege and confidentiality in communicating with patients, and a commitment to the patient's welfare are essential attributes of the graduate PA.

Dentists diagnose and treat problems associated with the oral cavity. This usually encompasses the teeth and tissues of the mouth. Dentists may fill cavities, straighten teeth, and treat gum disease. Dental surgery may be employed depending on the needs of the patent. Different jobs within the dentistry work team include Dentists, Dental Assistants, Dental Hygienists, Dental Technicians. Dental specialities include: Pedodontists, Oral Surgeons, Orthodontists, Periodontists, Endodontists, and Prosthodontists.

Nurses care for sick people and help them stay well, emotionally as well as physically. They may make a nursing diagnosis based on observing, assessing, and recording symptoms. Nurses may administer prescribed medications and provide other treatments, usually as directed by the physician. The duties depend on the setting, and types of nursing service providers include: Homemaker-Home Health Aides, Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), also known as Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs), Nurse's Aides and Orderlies, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, Nurse Practitioners, Registered Nurses (RNs).

Over half the people in the United States wear glasses or contact lenses. Optometrists provide most of the primary vision care people need. They examine people's eyes to diagnose vision problems and eye diseases. They use instruments and observation to examine eye health and to test patients' visual acuity, depth and color perception, and their ability to focus and coordinate the eyes. Professions in the health field of vision care include: Dispensing Opticians, Ophthalmic Assistants, Ophthalmic Technicians and Ophthalmic Technologists, Ophthalmologists, Optometrists (Doctors of Optometry), Optometric Assistants and Optometric Technicians, and Orthoptists.

Pharmacists dispense drugs prescribed by physicians and other health practitioners and provide information to patients about medications and their use. They advise physicians and other health practitioners on the selection, dosages, interactions, and side effects of medications. They must understand the use, compositions, and effects of drugs. Pharmacists work in several settings, including community, hospital, and home health care. Pharmacy Technicians assist licensed pharmacists by collecting, organizing, and evaluating information to assist the pharmacist in serving patients. Technicians develop and manage medication distribution and control systems; about half of this time is spend preparing, dispensing, distributing, and administering medications.

Physical Therapist work closely with physicians to plan, prescribe, and evaluate specific body movements to strengthen, improve, and maintain patient health. Physical Therapists evaluate the patient's musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems and then use this information to determine the patient's therapeutic needs and develop appropriate plans and procedures for treatment. The goals of physical therapy are to restore strength, endurance, flexibility, or coordination; prevent or limit disability, and improve general health.

Doctors of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), care for pets and livestock, treat sporting animals and protect the public from exposure to animal diseases. Typically, veterinarians diagnose medical problems in their animal patients, perform surgery and prescribe and administer medication.

Other Allied Medical Professions

The Anesthesiologist Assistant functions as a specialty physician assistant under the direction of a licensed and qualified Anesthesiologist, principally in medical centers. The AA assists in developing and implementing the anesthesia care plan. They provide other support according to established protocols. Such activities may include presenting anesthesia delivery systems and patient monitors and operating special monitors and support devices for critical cardiac, pulmonary, and neurological systems.

Athletic Trainers promote health and physical fitness among amateur and professional athletes. An AT may recommend exercises and suggest a diet to strengthen the body, reduce weight, or prevent illness and injury. Trainers work closely with an ill or injured athlete to evaluate their condition and provide treatment as directed by a physician.

Audiologists provide services to people who have hearing disorders. They perform a variety of tests to diagnose hearing problems. The tests include procedures to determine functions such as air and bone conduction, speech reception, and sound discrimination. They use instruments, such as audiometers, to measure range, nature, and degree of the patient's hearing ability.

Chiropractic Medicine stresses the patient's overall health and well-being. They encourage the use of natural, non-surgical health instruments. In addition to manually manipulating the spinal column, chiropractors may utilize physiological therapies such as water baths, light massage, ultrasound, electric and heat therapy.

Laboratory tests play an important role in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of many diseases. Cytotechnologists work under the supervision of pathologists to detect changes in human cells that may indicate diseases and conditions such as cancer, endocrine disorders, or infectious lesions. Medical Technologists perform laboratory tests on blood, tissues, and body fluids. Medical Laboratory Technicians perform laboratory tests under the supervision of a pathologist. They report test results to physicians, nurses, and pathologists. They collect blood samples, prepare chemical solutions, monitor the quality of tests and procedures, and maintain records of laboratory tests. Nuclear medicine technologists use and administer radioactive materials to help physicians diagnose and treat diseases.

Dietetics is the science of applying food and nutrition to health. Dietitians and nutritionists integrate and apply the principles derived from the sciences of food, nutrition, biochemistry, physiology, food management, and behavior to achieve and maintain the health status of the public they serve. Different jobs within the nutrition care team include Dietitians, Dietetic Technicians and Dietetic Assistants, Dietary Aide, Food Technologists, Food and Drug Inspector and Analyst, Nutritionist.

EMT's assess ill or injured people and initiate professional health care at the scene of an emergency. They provide care until the patient receives direct medical attention from a physician. Until direct medical care is available, the emergency medical technician works under the remote supervision of a physician. At the scene of the emergency or en route to a health care facility, an EMT may control bleeding, reinitiate and maintain breathing, monitor heart rate, or administer drugs.

Health Educators teach people how to establish and maintain a healthier lifestyle through changes in behavior. They plan, design, implement, coordinate, and evaluate programs to increase patient knowledge and improve health practices. Medical Illustrators prepare accurate illustrations of medical information. They apply some of the methods and materials that are used by artists, photographers, designers, engineers, computer scientists, and audiovisual specialists. Medical Record Administrators plan and develop health information systems for efficient and confidential receipt, recording, storage, and retrieval of medical data. Environmental Health Specialists protect and improve the health, safety, comfort, and well-being of people by protecting the environment.

Medical Assistants perform administrative or clinical work for physicians. Duties include scheduling patient appointments, maintaining medical records and transcripts, and handling insurance and financial matters. Clinical duties include performing diagnostic tests, medical laboratory procedures, and related services.

Medical and Health Services Managers plan, direct, and supervise the delivery of healthcare in medical and community settings. Healthcare management professionals includes individuals with specialized training either at the undergraduate and/or graduate level in the traditional management disciplines, but taught in a healthcare context, combined with coursework in policy and public health.

Mental health professionals counsel individuals in order to promote their optimum mental health. Mental health professionals may help children, adolescents and adults deal with a variety of life stresses and problems, including addiction/substance abuse; problems with self-esteem; aging-related mental health issues; family, parenting or marital problems; grief, anger, or depression; and other emotional or behavioral issues. These professionals help patients with clinically diagnosed mental illness and emotional problems, and their approach to care may be purely medical, psycho-therapeutic, psycho-social, or a combination of therapies. 

Podiatrists diagnose and treat disorders and diseases of the foot and lower leg. A podiatrist can be a generalist or specialist in foot surgery, podopediatrics (children's foot ailments) or podogeriatrics (foot ailments of the elderly) and sports medicine. They can take x-rays and perform or prescribe blood and other pathological tests. Depending on the diagnosis, they may recommend proper shoes, fit corrective devices, prescribe drugs, order physical therapy or perform surgery.

Public health is a diverse field that offers a variety of career options for people from different educational backgrounds. Public health is focused on creating healthy communities through education, research, and promotion of healthy lifestyles. Public health experts play an important role in emergency preparedness and response, health promotion and disease/injury prevention.

OT's use creative, educational, and recreational activities to help physically and mentally disabled patients of all ages to acquire or recover and maintain life skills. They also help to prevent accidents of injuries. They evaluate a patient's ability to perform activities that are needed for a healthy and productive life. The OT then plans and coordinates therapeutic activities to accommodate the patient's needs and interests.

Prosthetists plan, prepare, repair, and fit artificial limbs and supportive devices that physicians prescribe for patients with weak or missing limbs or body parts. The orthotist designs and fits supportive or corrective devices, such as an orthopedic brace for a patient who has a disabled leg or a weak spinal column. Both jobs' duties include: taking measurements, making casts, designing prostheses, fitting and evaluating prostheses on patients, and instruct patients in the use and care of prostheses.

Rehabilitation Counselors provide person-centered counseling services to individuals with disabilities and their families.  Issues that may be addressed include adjustment and coping with disability and other personal issues; assessment of interests, strengths, and challenges; preparation for employment and continued career development; transition from secondary or post-secondary education to adult life; independent living; and advocacy. Rehabilitation counselors are prepared to work with youth and adults in a variety of community-based settings including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, colleges, chemical dependency agencies, career/vocational counseling programs, and independent living centers.

Respiratory therapists assist physicians in the diagnosis, treatment, management, and preventative care of patients of all ages with cardiopulmonary (heart and lung) disorders. They often work with patients with asthma, bronchitis, cardiac failure, drowning injuries, hemorrhage, pneumonia, and shock. Respiratory therapists receive life support training in airway management, artificial ventilation, external cardiac massage, and other emergency support procedures.

Speech-language pathologists assess, diagnose, treat, and prevent speech, language, cognitive- communication, voice, swallowing, fluency, and other disorders related to communication. Speech-language pathologists work with individuals with speech disorders and fluency problems, such as stuttering; people with voice problems, such as inappropriate pitch or harsh voice; those with problems understanding and producing language; and those with cognitive communication impairments that result from neurological injury. They also work with people who have oral motor problems that cause eating and swallowing difficulties.

Technology has made medical treatments more effective and has improved health care providers' diagnostic capabilities greatly. Today, it is possible to observe internal organs, mechanically ventilate a patient's lung and test the functioning of the brain noninvasively. The health care professionals responsible for using this equipment properly are highly trained in both the technical and medical aspects of their respective fields. Cardiovascular and electroneurodiagnostic technicians and technologists monitor the functioning of the heart and brain, respectively. Perfusionists monitor the heart, lungs and circulation during surgery and can provide long-term care. Radiation therapists administer radiation to patients with cancer. Radiographers process and produce high-quality x-ray photographs or medical images of internal body structures. Surgical technologists maintain the sterility of all surgical equipment and assist physicians during procedures. Dosimetrists determine and monitor the dosage amounts of radiation. Ultrasound technologists use complex ultrasound equipment to produce two-dimensional ultrasonic recordings that show the shape, position, and movement of internal organs; the accumulation of fluid in the body; of the presence of various masses, such as a tumor or fetus. Biomedical engineers and biomedical equipment technicians must produce and maintain intricate equipment and machinery, which are used to cure illnesses and save lives. The health care professionals responsible for using this equipment properly are highly trained in both the technical and medical aspects of their respective fields. Cytotechnologists work under the supervision of pathologists to detect changes in human cells that may indicate diseases and conditions such as cancer, endocrine disorders, or infectious lesions.