work best in nursing, but he said that even in nursing only a small number of people who earn an associate’s degree go on to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Each accreditation body operates in a silo around its discipline with little regard or even awareness of other professions. Third-party accreditation processes and a national accreditation board could help break down these silos, Gale said.

The term allied health covers everything from 1-week laparoscopic training to Ph.D. research and postdoctoral education. But most allied health workers are educated in community or technical colleges. The professions generally are at the bachelor’s level or higher. For example, the clinical laboratory field has associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees and a handful of clinical doctoral programs. However, it also has a crisis in preparing enough doctoral-level faculty and program directors. Gale advocated “letting the body of knowledge do what it needs to do.” Governments, regulators, and administrators need to be flexible to let professions change.

The reimbursement systems for many allied health professions are flawed and fragmented, as are scope of practice regulations. When a patient is in need of, for example, rehabilitation services, those professions should direct patient care, Gale said. He also observed that most of the hospital patient record is from the laboratory, yet these workers generally are unable to discuss results with patients.

Finally, he listed several pressing questions involving allied health:

  • What is the available workforce in each profession, including age, education, income, and length of time in the profession?
  • What reimbursement mechanisms can appropriately reward practitioners for a highly demanding education?
  • How can state practice acts be made current and relevant to the practice of each profession?
  • How can the education system help graduates move up an educational ladder?
  • How can an accreditation program recognize a “school of allied health” rather than duplicating all materials for each program?
  • How can more faculty be better prepared for allied health programs?
  • With professions that have changed to graduate-level entry, how can broken educational ladders be fixed?

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