- The care network of an individual can be widened to include professionals not typically associated with healthcare teams (those listed in this article and more). This can allow for earlier detection and call to action.
- For “second” line professionals, there are things to keep in mind when concerns about a client arise: trust yourself, be informed, voice your concerns, refer out and follow-up with your clients.
Front-line health-care professionals (family physicians, ER physicians and nurses, home care nurses, etc.) are in the action. They see clients in emergencies and react to solve imminent health challenges. When individuals find themselves interacting with front-line health-care professionals, there is an urgent need for care.
In this article, we want to empower another set of professionals able to aid front-line health-care professionals by referring clients with concerning symptoms earlier. These underrated professionals can help in the process of early detection and treatment.
Dental Hygienist and Dentists
Individuals visit the dentist’s office one to two times a year. In many cases, and especially when they are younger, individuals see their dentist more than they visit their family doctor.
A dental hygienist and dentist will:
- ask questions that relate to oral health;
- ask questions about overall health, and;
- check one’s neck and mouth area for any abnormalities.
Both dental hygienists and dentists can flag abnormalities to clients for self-monitoring or to spark further testing. For example, through the manual check-up of an individual’s neck area, these professionals can feel masses to get checked by the individual’s family doctor.
Pharmacists are the most underutilized healthcare professional—in my opinion. They have vast knowledge about medications and the symptoms they help alleviate. They also understand the effects of medication on individuals.
Pharmacists are available to help with:
- certain shots;
- finding the appropriate over-the-counter medication for any ailment, and;
- consultations regarding prescription medications.
A pharmacist, especially if individuals always consult the same professional, is bound to get to know its clients. Their clients will open up about the symptoms they are experiencing in the hopes of finding a remedy. These pharmacists are able to identify concerning symptoms or clusters of symptoms and flag them to their clients.
Patient educators are not always readily available in all communities. However, for individuals who are in contact with such professionals, they have access to a gold mine of knowledge and resources.
Patient educators are available to:
- gather client information and history;
- educate clients on various existing or at-risk ailments, and;
- provide follow-up education and care if necessary.
Patient educators have the dual knowledge key in flagging at-risk clients—knowledge of the client and knowledge of illness. If an individual is in direct contact with a patient educator, they are in contact with a professional who has the potential to help diagnose illness early in its course.
Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists
Occupational therapists and physiotherapists work with their clients to ensure optimized mobility and function. They work with individuals to increase their ability to live independently in their community and with a good quality of life.
Occupational therapists and physiotherapists are available to:
- assess their client’s mobility and physical functions;
- provide manual treatment to a client, and;
- ensure that proper follow-up is provided.
Throughout their interactions with clients, these professionals have the opportunity to manually assess their client based on their concerns. More than that, they build a report with their clients which often results in trust and openness from their client. These are key in making proper assessments and flagging any alarming symptoms to physicians.
Registered Massage Therapist
Many individuals treat themselves to a massage from time to time—viewing massages as a self-care activity—and others book regular treatments. Registered massage therapy is, however, more than a way to relieve stress. Of course, it allows our bodies to release tension, but massage therapy is also used in treating certain symptoms longer term.
Registered massage therapists are available to:
- assess client needs based on their current physical and mental situation as well as their history;
- provide manual treatment to clients, and;
- follow changes in the client’s situation at intervals.
A registered massage therapist’s role when treating clients is to gather information. With their knowledge of the body, they are well positioned to identify and share their concerns with their clients.
5 Tips for Professionals When Voicing Their Concerns
Trust yourself. You did not get a professional title by doing nothing. You have a set of skills and knowledge that is valuable to your clients. If you identify something that does not seem or feel right, follow through by trusting your professional judgment.
Be informed. “Knowledge is power.” Gather information that could be relevant to your practice from reputable sources of information. By better understanding your concerns, you will feel empowered to make decisions and share your concerns with your clients.
Voice your concerns. As a professional, your professional opinion is important to your clients. When you have concerns about a client, express these concerns in a clear and concise way. Take the time to highlight the importance of the matter. Be confident when speaking with your client, this will seep through to them, ensuring a better sense of control from the point of view of your client.
Refer out. It is important to stay within your own field of practice as dictated by your professional college or association (as you already know). When you have concerns, which cannot be addressed by you as a professional, refer your client to a professional able to explore matters further. By understanding the roles of other professionals, you will ensure a stronger referral.
Follow-up with clients. First referrals are rarely followed through by clients. Following-up with clients is the most important steps in the referral process. This allows for the professional referring their client to account for barriers that may be in the way of their client accessing the appropriate resources for themselves.
** It goes without saying that a primary healthcare professional is most qualified to follow up and react if symptoms are alarming. Nevertheless, the professionals named above have the potential to widen one’s care network. If there are any other professionals that should be included on this list, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!