5 Types of Health Professionals Instrumental in Managing the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Public Health Nurses
- Laboratory Technicians
- Director of Health
The COVID-19 pandemic began in China in December 2019, with early cases showing up in the United States by January, and the health professionals tasked with managing the COVID-19 pandemic are on the front lines of the response. Once the disease was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020, healthcare workers all over the United States and the world had to step up and take charge. Here are five types of key health professionals tasked with the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Related resource: Top 25 Online MPH Programs (Master’s in Public Health)
1. Public Health Nurses
Public health nurses work at local and state health departments. They interact with the public, performing triage and counseling. They also provide direct patient care. A public health nurse is likely to be the first person that an uninsured patient with COVID-19 interacts with in order to gain access to a test or find out whether they should self-isolate or go to a testing or care facility.
Physicians of all types are on the front lines of managing the COVID-19 pandemic. A person’s primary care physician is the first point of contact for those who have health insurance. The primary care doctor could order the test and deliver the results. The doctor may also identify self-isolation versus going to an emergency room as the best course of action for a particular patient.
Epidemiologists straddle the area between healthcare and data analysis. They collect the information about each case, such as the patient’s age, sex, address, underlying health conditions and risk factors, such as travel or contact with a positive case. Epidemiologists use statistical analysis tools to show the distribution of cases and discover which risk factors increase a person’s risk of serious illness or death. The information provided by epidemiologists drives a lot of the administrative and healthcare decisions made by hospitals and governments.
4. Laboratory Technicians
Laboratory technicians perform the COVID-19 testing. They receive the samples collected by physicians and public health nurses. They process those samples in the laboratory under biosafety level two or three conditions. This involves wearing a face mask or hood, gloves and gown for protection. The laboratory technicians report the results back to the physicians caring for the patients. Laboratory technicians also compile and report positive test results to local and state health departments.
5. Director of Health
Each state has a director of health who is tasked with managing the health and safety of all residents. Most states give the director of health power to enact a public health emergency. A public health emergency or state of emergency allows the director of health to order shut schools, restaurants, bars, childcare centers and non-essential businesses. Such declarations also give directors of health the power to mandate and enforce a quarantine. According to the Ohio Department of Health, Dr. Acton, Director of Health for Ohio, issued a stay at home order on March 22, 2020 for all Ohioans with a few exceptions in order to decrease the rate of community spread of COVID-19.
These are just five types of health professionals who are tasked with managing the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many other health professionals who are also essential to the response, including respiratory therapists, hospital nurses, patient care associates and infection control practitioners. All of these professionals play critical roles in managing the COVID-19 pandemic and “flattening the curve” so that the healthcare system can better meet the intense demand for services.