Allied health is a blanket term which is used to refer to a wide variety of health professions, with the exclusion of doctors and nurses. Allied health professionals are an important part of the medical teams which deliver care to patients, varying from the people who work in ambulances providing medical transport to the perfusionists who monitor the heart-lung machines used during pulmonary bypass. Employment in this field exploded in the mid-20th century, as the field of medicine grew increasingly more complex, and a number of health professions arose to help provide care to patients.
The level of education and certification requirements for members of the allied health professions vary. In some cases, they may hold master's or doctorate degrees in their field, which have qualified them to pass certification exams which allow them to practice. In other instances, they may have minimal training, and lack certification. Some allied health professions are still new enough that no governing bodies have been established to clearly define them and to start to establish certification requirements.
Some examples of allied health professionals include: physical therapists, dental technicians, psychologists, midwives, medical technicians, physician's assistants, laboratory technicians, medical technologists, medical transporters, paramedics, laboratory technologists, public health advocates, occupational therapists, and audiologists, among many others. Members of each profession provide unique services which are designed to support patients as they recover from trauma, learn to manage chronic conditions, or struggle with the emergence of acute conditions.
Members of the allied health community can work in hospitals, clinics, research facilities, and their own private practices. Because the practice of medicine has become so complex, many patients interact with at least one allied health professional whenever they have an interaction with the health care system. For example, a patient who needs blood work will probably see a phlebotomist for a blood draw, and the blood sample will be analyzed by a laboratory technologist. Likewise, someone brought into a hospital with a broken leg might interact with paramedics, radiology technicians, and physical therapists.