Roles of Health Care Professionals

What is this tool?

This tool provides an overview of a number of health care professions in order to give healthcare learners and providers a general understanding of other’s roles and responsibilities.  It presents information about what each profession does, the education they receive, where they might work, and how they are licensed and regulated. This tool provides information on the following professions:

Why focus on role clarification?

Interprofessional collaboration requires communication between professionals, common goal setting, problem solving skills, and a clear understanding of each member’s role on the team.  Role clarification among healthcare professionals is uniquely important as several professions’ roles can overlap and potentially cause conflict. Clarifying each member’s role helps reduce intra-team conflict, mitigate role ambiguity, dissolve professional boundaries, and build trusting relationships.

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Teams must understand each member’s roles and responsibilities in order to work together effectively. In a sports team, specific roles are assigned to each player based on their individual strengths. Each player makes a unique contribution towards their common goal – to win the game. Teamwork models used in the airline industry demonstrate the need for collaboration in a workplace environment facing uncertainty, time constraints, and a need for safety. Healthcare teams are no different. Healthcare professionals need to understand the unique roles of each member on the healthcare team. They work in an ever-changing environment with limited resources which demands a team approach to provide optimal patient care.  Understanding the unique role of each member of the team and their unique contribution to patient care helps ensure continuity of care and prevents duplication of efforts.

The complex world of interprofessional collaboration

Role clarification is complex. A healthcare professional’s role depends upon a number of inter-related variables: scopes of practice that are constantly evolving; the context in which they practice (e.g. acute vs community setting, interdisciplinary clinic vs unidisciplinary clinic, etc); and the unique competencies or skills that each practitioner possesses. Therefore, it is not possible to provide a comprehensive list of what each profession does.   The diagram below illustrates how a professional’s role is determined by their scope of practice, their individual competence, and the setting in which they practice or the patient population they serve.

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This resource presents a general overview of each profession in order to give health care providers a foundation from which to start learning about the various roles and responsibilities of each discipline. Check out each of the professions listed in the side menu to find out their role on a health care team.