Allied health professions are distinct from nursing, medicine and pharmacy. These healthcare providers are responsible for providing a range of technical, diagnostic, therapeutic and direct patient care as well as support services to healthcare professionals and patients.

Additionally, allied healthcare professionals (AHPs) often work in a multidisciplinary team with other healthcare professionals to provide the best quality care for their patients.

Examples of AHPs and their job scopes

1) Physiotherapists

Physiotherapists help to prevent, assess and treat a wide range of disorders that are associated with human movement. Some examples include physical disabilities, trauma or illness. Through physiotherapy, the patients’ physical pain is relieved, and muscle strength and joint mobility is improved. Additionally, it can also enhance respiratory function.

Physiotherapists work with people with different conditions, such as sports injury, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy. Examples of treatment in physiotherapy include chest therapy and therapeutic exercises.

2) Occupational therapists

Occupational therapists help to develop and maintain a person’s capacity to perform activities of daily living (such as self-care, leisure and work) through an individualised treatment programme that is specially catered for each individual patient.

In consideration of the person’s physical, mental and social needs, activities are carefully selected for the clients. The environmental surroundings are also modified to achieve the goals that are the most important to them. The occupational therapist may help his patients by facilitating independent living and assisting with the reintegration back to home, work and society.

3) Diagnostic radiographers

Diagnostic radiographers use a range of techniques with the medical radiation equipment to produce radiographic images of the body that help the healthcare team to diagnose an illness or injury. High-end systems are used to process data and reconstruct images for radiological investigations.

Examples of a diagnostic radiographer’s work include using equipment such as Computerised Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

4) Radiation therapists

Radiation therapists use sophisticated computerised equipment and techniques to provide the prescribed radiation dose for the treatment of cancer patients through individualised treatment plans. For instance, internal imaging may be used to determine the exact location of cancer, measure the patient’s body contours and develop cross-sectional diagrams of the affected area.

Emotional support is also provided to patients to help in managing the side effects of the treatment. Examples of radiation therapy include disease-specific radiation therapy and image-guided radiation therapy.

5) Speech therapists

Speech therapists assess and treat speech, swallowing, language or communication problems so that these patients are able to communicate with others and eat or swallow their food. Often, speech therapists work with a wide range of individuals, from infants to the elderly.

Examples of speech therapy include dysphagia management and voice rehabilitation.

How to embark on a career as an AHP

To meet the increasing demand for healthcare services, the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Singapore has started out several plans for Singaporeans to enter the AHP workforce.

1) Change in training pathway for allied health professions

The Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) launched the Bachelor of Science with Honours four-year degree programmes in physiotherapy, occupational therapy, diagnostic radiography and radiation therapy since September 2016. This new degree programme provides the students with a better integration of knowledge and skills for practice.

2) “Care to Go Beyond” national branding campaign

This campaign aims to raise awareness of nursing and allied health professions, as well as encourage more individuals to consider it as a career. Local and overseas scholarships are awarded to attract more talent.

In 2013, 251 healthcare scholarships were awarded - 46% more than in 2012. Public healthcare professionals’ salaries are constantly adjusted to continue attracting and retaining talent in public healthcare.

3) Support mid-career professionals to join the healthcare sector

The MOH and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) have expanded the Healthcare Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) from April 2016. The five healthcare PCPs available for mid-career professionals are Enrolled Nurse (EN), Registered Nurse (RN), Physiotherapist (PT), Occupational Therapist (OT) and Diagnostic Radiographer (DR).

The MOH will fund the cost of nursing and allied health training, as well as provide training allowances. Through this programme, mid-career entrants can meet the requisite to join the healthcare sector.

Education qualifications for AHPs

To become a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, diagnostic radiographer or radiation therapist, the individual needs to complete the Bachelor of Science with Honours four-year degree programme. This is offered in the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT).

To become a speech therapist, one needs to complete the Bachelor of Speech Pathology with Honours four-year degree programme. This degree can be pursued in an overseas tertiary institution. Otherwise, the individual can consider embarking on a Masters of Speech Pathology with Honours two-year degree programme in the National University of Singapore Division of Gradaute Medical Studies (DGMS).

Physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists are governed the Allied Health Profession Act and regulated by the Ministry of Health Registration. Registration of qualifications is with the Allied Health Professions Council (AHPC) is required to be able to practice in Singapore. MIMS

Read more:

The understated role of speech and language pathologists
Why are nursing home careers so unpopular in Singapore?
3 High-Paying Non-Frontline Medical Career Pathways