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 Allied Health 

The allied health professions constitute the majority of the health-care workforce and include both highly educated individuals and those with competencies developed through on-the-job training. Community colleges educate the majority of allied health professionals.

Allied health careers comprise more than 200 specialty fields including but not limited to:

  • Dental hygiene
  • Dietetics or nutrition
  • Emergency medical services
  • Health information technology
  • Clinical laboratory sciences and medical technology
  • Cytotechnology
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Radiologic technology
  • Nuclear medical technology
  • Rehabilitation counseling
  • Respiratory therapy
  • Speech and language pathology
  • Audiology

Many allied health professionals educated in either 2- or 4-year programs (e.g., respiratory therapists and radiographers) pass the same licensure exam and share the same scope of practice.

Where the Jobs Are: Imminent Workforce Shortages in Allied Health
Key allied health professions are experiencing workforce shortages. By 2018, the nation will need additional radiographers (17%), occupational therapist assistants (30%), physical therapist assistants (33%), dental hygienists (36.1%), and home health aides (50.0%).

Moving to a technologically advanced health-care system is dramatically increasing the need for highly skilled health information technology (HIT) experts to support the nation’s transition to electronic health records (EHRs). The HIT profession is expected to grow 20% by 2018.The federal government has invested in community colleges to rapidly build a qualified workforce to ensure the adoption of EHRs, information exchange across health-care providers and public health authorities, and the redesign of workflows within healthcare settings.

Allied Health Programs By State
For a listing of available community college allied health programs, access pages 8-13 of the PDF version of the 2011 AACC Nursing & Allied Health Brochure.

NN2 Survey on Trends, Needs In Health Professions Education
The National Network of Health Programs in Two-Year Colleges (NN2) and Certified Background have joined with Melting Walls Consultants to conduct a qualitative study to gauge trends and needs in health professions education and the workforce. AACC member colleges are encouraged to take the survey. The results will provide community college health career program leaders and policymakers with best practices from peer institutions and identify possible barriers to address that may improve successful completion rates.

National Network for Associate Degree Respiratory Care (NN2RC)
NN2RC advocates for Associate Degree Respiratory Care education and practice. The NN2RC was formed in 2011 out of a need to support the Associate Degree therapist as a viable and necessary entry level point into the profession of Respiratory Care.

Allied Health Services: Avoiding Crises (Institute of Medicine paper; 1989)
NN2, an HPEC partner in advocating for community college health professions education programs, characterized this study during Summer 2011 as follows:

In 1989, suggestions offered in the paper are probably even more relevant and timely today, as our Country anticipates health care reform, than they were when originally published. Suggestions such as alternative pathways to entry-level practice, mobility between community college and baccalaureate programs, improving diversity, career paths with realistic job expectations, flexibility in licensure, etc. sound very much like they could be bullets in a community college strategic plan.

Allied Health Workforce and Services (Institute of Medicine Workshop; May 2011)
Conclusions derived from this IOM workshop by NN2, a community college advocacy organization and HPEC partner, in its Summer 2011 newsletter, are as follows:

  • Creation of effective partnerships and coalitions can leverage resources, and improve planning.
  • An interdisciplinary core curriculum and teamwork among faculty in various disciplines can streamline educational processes, improve efficiencies, promote teamwork, and prepare students for changing workforce demands. 
  • To promote recognition and influence policy, community colleges must produce standardized and timely data that shows outcomes. 
  • Community colleges play a central role in diversifying health care and promoting economic development; they are critical partners in healthcare workforce preparation and career pathways. 
  • Job forecasting requires employer input and willingness to share data. 
  • Work-based learning, e.g. grow-your-own models, including credit for prior learning, can increase diversity, promote job satisfaction and retention, and decrease costs.

At the workshop, Susan M. Skillman et al. presented Contributions of Community Colleges to the Education of Allied Health Professionals in Rural Areas which included data and evidence to support the vital role of rural-relevant community college allied health professions training.

 Contact Information

For more information, please contact:

Roxanne Fulcher
Director, Health Professions Policy
Ph: 202.728.0200 x274

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