Glossary - Health

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Audiologist

Audiologists will test and assess the nature of hearing disorders. They undertake non-medical management and rehabilitation of hearing loss and associated disorders of communication.

An Audiologist will work closely with a client to correctly identify problems with hearing and listening, by conducting interviews and studying background information, such as medical history. The extent of hearing loss can be determined using a wide range of techniques, including audiometric tests such as air and bone conduction tests. Audiologists report their findings to medical practitioners and can provide counselling and guidance for hearing-impaired patients and their families. They can prescribe, fit and evaluate hearing aids and other devices, such as cochlear implants.

Chiropractor

Chiropractors diagnose and treat patients by triggering the body’s inherent recuperative abilities, alleviating health problems related to the nervous and skeletal systems, particularly the spine, without the use of drugs or surgery.

A Chiropractor will conduct physical examinations and may also interpret diagnostic imaging studies such as X-rays. They can adjust a patient’s spine or other joints to correct joint dysfunctions which are interfering with proper nervous system control and integration of body function. They can even specialise in areas of such as sports chiropractic or paediatrics.

Dentist

Dentists diagnose and treat oral diseases, injuries and abnormalities of jaws, teeth and gums; undertake preventive procedures; conduct surgery; and perform other specialist techniques.

A dentist examines a patient’s teeth and gums using specialised dental equipment and X-rays. They can detect cavities and provide preventive care, such as scaling and cleaning. They are able to repair decayed and broken teeth by rebuilding tooth structures and providing crowns and bridges. They are able to perform routine surgical procedures, such as extracting teeth, as well as complex operations on the jaws and soft tissue, and administer local anaesthetics when necessary for carrying out treatment . They will design and fit dentures, crowns and bridges for the replacement of lost or unsound teeth and can refer patients to dental specialists for further treatment if required.

Dietitian

Dietitians guide people to make informed and healthy dietary choices to assist in preventing, or to help treat illness and disease. The professional dietitian will combine knowledge of science and food, to provide specialist help to patients with health related illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, or kidney disease.

A Dietitian will assist in all areas of management of nutritional care for individuals by planning appropriate diets and menus. They often are required to educate people on their individual nutritional needs and ways of accessing and preparing their food, assisting them with planning.

Health Information Manager

A Health Information Manager applies an understanding of different health care processes, like health records and administration, information management and human resource management, to ensure services meet the medical, legal, ethical and administrative requirements of the health care system. 

Health Information Managers plan and develop health care information systems like computerised patient identification systems, coding and analysis of diseases and procedures, or the design of health record forms. They develop and implement new policies and procedures for handling health information in accordance with professional ethics, institutional requirements and relevant legislation such as the Freedom of Information Act.

Health Promotion Officer

Health promotion involves working with groups and communities to prevent illness and to promote good health. Health promotion workers have skills in identifying the factors that lead to health problems and developing programs that are effective in creating healthier lives and healthier environments.

Medical Practitioner/ Doctor

Medical practitioners examine patients to diagnose physical or mental illnesses, disorders or injuries and record patient’s medical information. They can prescribe medications and treatment to promote or restore good health. They may have to refer patients onto a specialist for further testing such as x-rays or pathology. They may do many different things each day: consultations; attending emergencies; performing operations; arranging medical investigations; administering medication; inoculating patients to prevent infectious or contagious diseases; and certifying or reporting on births and deaths.

  • Alyce, studying Medicine, was a Health Ambassador for LEAP in 2013. From her practical placement in the Torres Strait, she posted this vidlog
  • Gary, studying Medicine, is a Wiradjuri man and he grew up in a country town. He is the first in his family to go to uni. Gary was a Health Ambassador for LEAP in 2013. View Gary's vidlogs and blogs.
  • Jessica experienced financial hardship throughout her life... her mother's disability inspired her to go into medical research. She is now studying a Medical Science/Surgery double degree at uni. View Jessica's student story.
  • See what it's like studying a Medicine/Surgery double degree at uni. View Luke's student story.
  • Mairaed is a Health Ambassador and is studying Medicine after completing her first degree in Biomedical Science. Share Mairaed's challenging journey via her vidlogs and blog posts.

Areas of Specialisation include:

  • Anaesthetist - An anaesthetist administers anaesthetics to patients who are to undergo surgery; takes care of patients during and after the operation; assists in pain management plans.
  • Neurologist - A neurologist studies and treats injuries and diseases affecting the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nervous system and muscle tissue.
  • Obstetrician/Gynaecologist - An obstetrician/ gynaecologist provides medical care before, during and after childbirth (obstetrics), and diagnoses, treats and assists in the prevention of disorders of the female reproductive system (gynaecology).
  • Ophthalmologist - An ophthalmologist specialises in eye disease, treatment and surgery.
  • Paediatrician - A paediatrician treats diseases and illnesses in children, from birth to early adolescence.
  • Pathologist - A pathologist uses laboratory procedures to identify and diagnose the presence and stages of diseases and possible sources of infection in body tissues, fluids, secretions and other specimens.
  • Physician - A physician may specialise in one of many branches of medicine, such as internal medicine, cardiology (treatment of heart disease), rheumatology (treatment of arthritis), allergy, neurology, haematology (treatment of diseases of the blood and blood forming tissues), or geriatrics (diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting elderly people).
  • Psychiatrist - A psychiatrist treats mental, emotional and behavioural disorders.
  • Surgeon - A surgeon may specialise in one of many areas such as cardiothoracic surgery, general surgery, neurosurgery, orthopaedic surgery, otolaryngology head and neck surgery, paediatric surgery, plastic and reconstructive surgery, urology, or vascular surgery.

Medical Imaging Technologist

Medical imaging technologists operate X-ray and other imaging equipment, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Ultrasound, to produce radiographic images which are used in the diagnosis and subsequent management of disease or injury.

After a request from medical practitioners for X-ray examination to be performed on patients, a Medical Imaging Technologist determines the most appropriate imaging techniques, correctly positions the patient and imaging equipment to obtain the best image of the area being examined, and checks the developed images to see if further views are necessary. Special equipment they operate may include a fluoroscope (which gives a moving image of the part being examined), angiograph (which images blood vessels) and computed tomography (CT) equipment (which gives cross-sectional images of the body).

Medical Physicist

Medical Physicists can specialise in Radiation Oncology, Diagnostic Imaging or Nuclear Medicine. They are involved in day-to-day clinical activities, education and research. Medical Physicists play a key role in the development and optimisation of imaging technologies such as X-ray, Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

Medical Scientist

Medical scientists conduct medical laboratory tests to provide information for diagnosing, treating and preventing disease. Medical scientists will study blood and its diseases, count blood cells and examine blood slides with a microscope and identify blood diseases such as anaemia and leukaemia. They will assist in areas such as blood for transfusion by cross matching the blood with the patient and checking for the presence of diseases such as hepatitis and AIDS. They may work in areas for testing blood for blood group antibodies which may cause disease in newborn babies and check the compatibility of bone marrow, kidney and other organs for transplantation. Their work can be varied and encompass working out the chemical composition of specimens such as blood and urine, important in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease, liver disease and diabetes. In the lab they may grow disease-causing organisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi that are taken from a variety of clinical specimens. They may be involved with preparation with body tissues (taken from the body during surgery or post-mortem examinations) for microscopic examination. They report and advise medical practitioners on the interpretation of tests.

Midwife

A midwife works as a part of a multidisciplinary team, liaising with other healthcare professionals to provide the best care and advice to women and their families during pregnancy, labour and childbirth. They also provide postnatal care for women and babies in the early days or weeks following birth, including clinical care and support, monitoring mother and baby and reporting any developments or complications. They can prescribe and administer medicines to women and their babies and if required, will prepare women for operative birth and provide post-operative care.

Nurse – Registered

Registered nurses assess, plan, provide and evaluate preventative, curative and rehabilitative care for patients, clients and residents in a wide variety of settings. They provide physical and technical nursing care for patients by making sure patients receive treatment prescribed by doctors and or other health professionals. 

Their main role is providing nursing care of patients. They observe, monitor, assess and report on patients’ condition and responses to treatment. They administer prescribed medicines and need to have an excellent working knowledge of specialised medical equipment used in patient care and treatment. They will prepare a patient for operations as well as provide post-operative care. They may also supervise enrolled nurses and other hospital support staff.

Nutritionist

Nutritionist have generally completed a tertiary qualification in, for example, food science nutrition, or public health. Their main role is providing information and advice about health and food choices to help people achieve optimal health. Nutritionists may work with individuals, communities or at the community level to design, coordinate, implement and evaluate health interventions to improve wellbeing through better food and nutrition, but they are not qualified to provide medical nutrition therapy (see Dietitian).

Nutritionists may also work in research, as nutrition consultants and advisors, as public health and health promotion officers, community development officers, quality and nutrition coordinators, food technologists, or media spokespeople.

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists will treat people who because of illness, injury or circumstance, are limited in their ability to undertake the activities of everyday life. They assist people to regain lost functions, develop their abilities and social skills, as well as maintain and promote independence in their everyday lives to enhance health and wellbeing.

An Occupational Therapist will conduct tests to assess functional, emotional, psychological, developmental and physical capabilities. Once this is completed they will plan and direct specific therapeutic programs for individuals using vocational (jobs or careers), recreational, remedial, social and educational activities. They have to design a variety of activities that improve an affected movement or function and help individuals to regain personal care skills. They can work in specialised areas such as with children or people who have had strokes. They may also advise people on the use of specialised equipment, such as home modifications, wheelchairs and other assistive technologies, ultimately this will help people within their environment.

Ophthalmologist

An ophthalmologist is a doctor who has completed a medical degree and then undertaken further specialist training in eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists differ from optometrists and opticians in their levels of training and in what they can diagnose and treat. An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats eye diseases (e.g. glaucoma, misaligned eyes), and performs eye surgery.

Optometrist

An Optometrist performs eye examinations to determine the presence of vision problems and other eye conditions and diseases. An optometrist will work out the nature and extent of vision problems and abnormalities by examining a patient’s eyes, using specialised instruments, techniques and tests. They treat or manage vision defects by prescribing and dispensing glasses or contact lenses, special optical aids or vision therapy. They will examine patients for signs of eye and systemic conditions, including glaucoma, diabetes, high blood pressure and multiple sclerosis, and work with medical practitioners to co-manage patients when required. They may manage some eye conditions by prescribing therapeutic drugs. Optometrists will refer their patient to an ophthalmologist for further specialist treatment (e.g. surgery) if required.

Oral Health Therapist

Dental and Oral Health Therapists have an education and prevention focus and work as part of a dental team. They provide high quality oral health care, mainly for children and adolescents, such as examinaton, treatment and prevention. Oral Health Therapists are qualified in dental therapy and dental hygiene.

Orthoptist

Orthoptists specialise in disorders of eye movements and diagnostic procedures related to disorders of the eye and visual system. Orthoptists work in many areas including neonatal care, paediatrics, rehabilitation, geriatrics, neurological impairment, community services and ophthalmic technology. They are employed in a wide range of settings including private practices, specialist eye clinics and public hospitals (including children's hospitals), community centres and low vision rehabilitation centres. Both part-time and full-time employment is available. Study for this field is usually via a Bachelor of Health Sciences with post-graduate study in orthoptics.

Orthotics

Orthotics is a branch of mechanical and medical science that deals with the support and bracing of weak or ineffective joints or muscles, using prostheses. Orthotists and Prosthetists work in special units located in major teaching hospitals, rehabilitation centres and private practice. Employment may also be found with commercial companies that design and manufacture aids for the disabled. Study for this field is usually via a Bachelor of Health Sciences with post-graduate study in prosthetics and orthotics.

Osteopath

Osteopaths diagnose, treat and provide preventative advice on disorders of the musculoskeletal system of the body, using manual techniques to alleviate stresses and dysfunction to improve the body’s function.

An Osteopath will diagnose a patient’s complaints using information from case histories, physical examinations, manual ‘palpation’ (the use of touch), observation of body structure and mobility and clinical aids (e.g. X-rays, CT scans and laboratory tests). They will use a variety of manual techniques such as soft tissue stretching, muscle relaxation, gentle mobilisation or manipulation.

Paramedic

Paramedics provide emergency care and treatment before patients reach hospital. They use specially equipped vehicles (even motorbikes are now being trialled in Melbourne), to reach accidents or medical emergencies at homes, building sites and public areas. They may even have to deliver a baby before they can get to hospital in an ambulance. Paramedics can administer emergency medical attention, pain relief or IV fluids, or lifesaving medical help to critical patients before they transport them to hospital. They also attend public events, sports, concerts to provide help quickly if an accident or emergency occurs.

Pharmacist

Pharmacists manufacture and dispense medicines and drugs in hospitals and community pharmacies, and advise on their appropriate use. They can also conduct research into the formulation, production, storage, quality control and distribution of medicines and drugs.

A Pharmacist will prepare or supervise the dispensing of medicines, ointments and tablets and advise patients on how their medicines are to be taken or used in the safest and most effective way.

Physiotherapist

Physiotherapists assess and treat disorders in human movement caused by injury and disease. A physiotherapists will assess the physical condition of patients to diagnose problems and plan appropriate treatment by uses a range of techniques to strengthen and stretch muscles and joints to improve patient mobility (such as massage, hydrotherapy, breathing and relaxation techniques). They may use equipment such as heat packs, exercise equipment, ice packs, ultrasound and electrotherapy to ease pain, reduce swelling and improve the range of movement.

See what it's like studying at uni to become a Physiotherapist. View Lucy's student story.

Psychologist

Psychologists study human behaviour and the processes associated with how people think and feel. They conduct research and provide treatment and counselling, for individuals and groups, to reduce distress, behavioural or psychological problems; and promote mental health and positive behaviour.

See what it's like studying at uni for a Doctorate in Phychology.  View Ben's student story.

Podiatrist

Podiatrists look after the health of people’s feet by treating and preventing foot abnormalities as well as treating skin and nails disorders. A podiatrist will assess the patient’s feet to diagnose a disorders or infections and decide on an appropriate treatment. They can treat feet imbalances by using corrective devices such as orthotics, or perform surgical procedures on the foot. They can also treat bone abnormalities in the foot, such as bunions, toe deformities, ingrown toenails, corns, warts and other infections.

Prosthetist

See Orthotics

Public Health Officer

Public health involves working at a population level to identify what factors are impacting on health and what strategies will protect and promote people’s health. It ranges from having strong systems in place to check on levels of infectious disease in the community and having strategies to stop these diseases spreading, to responding to the huge increases in lifestyle disease, such as heart disease and diabetes, and working with communities to create healthier environments and healthier lifestyles.

Social Work

Social workers help people to deal with personal and social problems. Some may directly help people; others plan and run programs to help individuals, groups or whole communities. Social workers can tell people about community or government support services, such as public housing. To help people to access these services, they may provide administrative support, reports or referrals. Counselling people having trouble facing a crisis is part of their job – a family death, illness, relationship breakdown, stress or other life pressures. They may also organise and lead group sessions with people who need similar support or life skills. Social workers sometimes work with larger community groups with special needs, like newly arrived migrants. They also analyse statistics and records to write reports.

Jad overcame many personal obstacles to graduate from his Bachelor of Arts degree. He is planning to do a Master’s degree in social work. View Jad's student story.

Speech pathologist

Speech pathologists treat and provide ongoing assistance to people of all ages with communication disorders. These may include speech, language, voice, fluency and literacy difficulties. They also work with people who have physical problems with eating or swallowing. A speech pathologist will establish the nature and severity of each client’s communication problems, which may require the use of special equipment and tests. They treat children who are unable to communicate effectively due to conditions such as cleft palate, hearing loss, delayed speech or language development, cerebral palsy or emotional disturbances. They will treat and assist people when language, speech or voice has been affected by surgery, disease or disorders of the nervous system, brain damage or hearing loss. They assist patients with afflictions such as stuttering.

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