2-13. PHYSICIAN ASSISTANTS
a. Role. One of the newest allied health professions is that of the physician
assistant. The physician assistant performs a large number of tasks, formerly done by
physicians, such as screening large numbers of patients on routine sick call.
b. Limitations. This frees the physician's time somewhat so that he or she can
oversee the care of a greater number of patients. Physician assistants provide an
invaluable service to the military and are legally recognized by most states. Physician
assistants are not full-fledged physicians, but are qualified, in most instances, to
perform battlefield surgery.
Nurses maintain round-the-clock contact with patients, providing physical and
emotional support for the patient's needs during the patient's illness or disability.
2-15. OCCUPATIONAL THERAPISTS
Occupational or physical therapists work with patients to help them regain daily
living skills through the use of artificial limbs and special equipment. Physical therapists
perform therapeutic procedures including exercise to increase the patient's strength,
endurance, coordination, and range of motion.
Pharmacists have an in-depth knowledge of the composition, proper usage, and
indications and contraindications of medications. Pharmacists serve as consultants to
physicians, providing up-to-date information on medications, including side-effects or
contraindications (adverse interactions) of specific drugs.
2-17. RESPIRATORY THERAPISTS
a. Intermittent Positive Pressure Breathing. Respiratory therapists perform a
variety of therapeutic procedures to help the patient breathe as normally as possible.
When the diaphragm is paralyzed, the patient has to learn an alternate system of
breathing, such as intermittent positive pressure breathing (IPPB).
b. Aerosol Therapy. Aerosol therapy involves the use of aerosol inhalants, as
in the case of patients suffering from asthma.
c. Postural Drainage. Many diseases adversely affect breathing and require
changes of body position to clear the lungs of mucous and phlegm. Respiratory
therapists teach patients and their families how to use postural drainage.