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A health professional or healthcare provider is an individual who provides preventive, curative, promotional or rehabilitative health care services in a systematic way to people, families or communities.
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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 for the purpose of improving the mental health of individuals or treating mental illness. These include psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners, marriage and family therapists, 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.
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, 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. 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, adult-gerontology nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, geriatric clinical pharmacists, geriatric nurses, geriatric care managers, geriatric aides, and others who focus on the health and psychological care needs of older adults.
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, surgeon’s assistant, 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, rehabilitation nurses, clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, physiotherapists, orthotists, prosthetists, occupational therapists, recreational therapists, audiologists, speech and language pathologists, respiratory therapists, rehabilitation counsellors, physical rehabilitation therapists, physiotherapy technicians, orthotic technicians, prosthetic technicians, personal care assistants, and others.
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.
Oral care practitioners
A dental care practitioner is a health worker who provides care and treatment to promote and restore oral health. These include dentists and dental surgeons, dental assistants, dental auxiliaries, dental hygienists, dental nurses, dental technicians, dental therapists, and related professionals.
Foot care practitioners
Care and treatment for the foot, ankle, and lower leg may be delivered by podiatrists, pedorthists, foot health practitioners, podiatric medical assistants, podiatric nurse and others.
Public health practitioners
A public health practitioner focuses on improving health among individuals, families and communities through the prevention and treatment of diseases and injuries, surveillance of cases, and promotion of healthy behaviors. This category includes community and preventive medicine specialists, public health nurses, clinical nurse specialists, dietitians, environmental health officers, paramedics, epidemiologists, health inspectors, and others.
Alternative medicine practitioners
In many societies, practitioners of alternative medicine have contact with a significant number of people, either as integrated within or remaining outside the formal health care system. These include practitioners in acupuncture, Ayurveda, herbalism, homeopathy, naturopathy, Siddha medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, traditional Korean medicine, and Unani. In some countries such as Canada, chiropractors and osteopaths (not to be confused with doctors of osteopathic medicine in the United States) are considered alternative medicine practitioners.
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