Career differences between community allied health and hospital allied health

Despite being within the same industry, there are many differences between community allied health and hospital allied health. In this article, we explore everything you need to know in order to make an informed decision.

If you’re considering a career in allied health, you may be wondering about the differences between working in community allied health and hospital allied health.

And as your choice of workplace can affect your mood, job satisfaction, career course and more, it’s worth investigating what it’s like to work in each of these allied health settings.

To help you make an informed choice, we’ve highlighted the main differences between community and hospital allied health, and showcased some typical personality traits of allied health clinicians at Better Rehab (we’re a private, NDIS-registered community allied health provider).

What is allied health?

Like the medical, dental and nursing professions, allied health is an essential component of healthcare in Australia. It already comprises the second-largest clinical workforce after nursing and midwifery, with around 200,000 registered professionals. In fact, the government expects demand for allied health professionals to grow even further as Australia’s population changes*.

This thriving part of our health sector is made up of a wide range of professions (27 according to Allied Health Professions Australia) that provide both physical and mental health care and support. They include physiotherapyoccupational therapyspeech pathology, psychology, dietetics, exercise physiology, and Positive Behaviour Support.

To become an allied health professional, you will need a university degree in the allied health discipline of your choice. Each university and course require differing prerequisites, such as HSC subjects, assumed knowledge or an undergraduate qualification. Depending on the discipline you choose, you can then enter the allied health workforce via a graduate program, like Better Rehab’s 12-month graduate program. This prepares graduate occupational therapists, speech pathologists, physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and Positive Behaviour Support practitioners for working as community allied health professionals, setting them up for successful and rewarding careers.

What is community allied health?

Community allied health provides healthcare services in community-based settings, such as participants’ homes, aged care facilities, schools and government-operated organisations. Some companies, like Better Rehab, also provide in-clinic and telehealth therapy sessions. In Australia, community allied health care can involve government schemes such as the NDIS.

Within these settings, allied health professionals (AHPs), also called practitioners and clinicians, work with participants to:

  • Help them manage disabilities and chronic conditions
  • Prevent illness and injury
  • Aid their recovery from injury
  • Achieve goals
  • Promote healthy lifestyles.

Community AHPs can work solely with patients within their discipline or as part of a multidisciplinary team (MDT). An MDT approach is favoured at Better Rehab as it provides a more collaborative and engaging way of working, as well as delivering better participant outcomes. Better Rehab also provides opportunities to specialise in certain areas (for example, early childhood or neuro) within the community allied health setting.

What is hospital allied health?

Hospital AHPs provide care and services within both private and government-run (public) hospitals and their outpatient clinics. They typically work in acute hospital care, providing diagnostic, therapeutic and support services, and often collaborate with each other to provide more comprehensive therapy.

Differences between private hospital and public hospital allied health care

In Australia, most hospital AHPs work at public hospitals. The range of allied health care services provided by both private and public hospitals depends largely on their size and location.

Generally, AHPs who work at public hospitals are hospital employees, whereas at private hospitals they can be employees or consultants employed by an external provider, such as a private clinic.

Differences between community and hospital allied health

The main differences these two allied health areas are:

Who they help

Community AHPs typically help people who require ongoing care due to chronic conditions, disability or aging.  They work with participants, and often their families and support workers, to provide ongoing therapy, care and support.

Hospital AHPs, on the other hand, work with patients who require acute hospital care, such as those who are critically ill, injured, or require surgery. They generally only see clients for a short space of time.

Workplace setting

Community AHPs may work in a variety of settings, including clinics, the homes of participants and rehabilitation and community health centres.

Hospital AHPs work in private or public hospitals and their outpatient clinics, often in acute care teams, collaborating with medical professionals to provide care to patients.

Challenges and rewards

In community allied health, clinicians usually require a high level of autonomy and adaptability as they often manage their own schedules, work in a variety of settings, including independently in participants’ homes and in remote areas, and help people with complex health conditions – all of which can come with a variety of challenges and rewards.

The clinicians who find the nature of community allied health work rewarding enjoy the flexibility, independence and variety, and the opportunity to provide ongoing care and build close relationships with their participants.

By comparison, the fast-paced environment and high patient numbers and turnover in hospitals means that hospital AHPs often need quick decision-making skills and the ability to multitask. And as hospitals operate 24/7, clinicians may be required to work outside regular hours and on weekends and public holidays.

While the work can be demanding and less flexible within the hospital environment, the pros include the ability to work with a diverse range of patients.

Work environment and culture

Community allied health professionals usually enjoy flexible work schedules, which they often manage themselves, and work independently and in small teams. Other workplace benefits can include being able to choose participants, no weekend and evening shifts, organised team bonding activities, employment benefits like flexible working schedules and rewards, and learning and development incentives.

Their hospital-based counterparts, however, work in a highly structured and fast-paced workplace that offers less flexibility in their work schedules and patient choice. They also work exclusively within the hospital or in its outpatient clinic.

Which allied health area appeals to you?

We hope that showcasing the main differences between community allied health and hospital allied health will help you choose the area that’s right for you – and perhaps your choice of allied health discipline too!

In addition to the above differences, it’s also important to choose a workplace that aligns with your personal values, goals and personal preferences, like flexibility for work-life balance, and delivers overall job satisfaction. In Australia, there are plenty of allied health workplace choices, and as we say at Better Rehab, the choice is always yours!

If you’re interested in starting or continuing your career in community allied health, we encourage you to get in touch with our talent team via our contact form.

*SOURCE: About allied health care | Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care

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