Rehabilitation is an important part of the recovery process after surgery or significant injury. Rehabilitation has a whole of person approach that aims to achieve the highest possible level of function, maximise quality of life and minimise the need for ongoing health and community support.
Rehabilitation aims to restore function across physical, psychological, social and vocational domains. Allied health professionals play essential roles in delivering cost-effective rehabilitation services.
Allied health and rehabilitative care
A wide range of allied health professions, generally working in multi-disciplinary teams, are involved in the delivery of rehabilitation services. Some allied health professionals undertake advanced training to become specialists in a particular aspect of rehabilitation.
An allied health rehabilitation team may include the following:
- Audiologists to assess for hearing impairment and fit hearing devices
- Optometrists and orthoptists to provide services for low vision
- Occupational therapists and rehabilitation counsellors to assist with equipment and modifications to the home, school or workplace to support independence and participation
- Podiatrists to provide services promoting foot health and mobility
- Orthotists/prosthetists to prescribe devices and that promote mobility, limb function and independence
- Physiotherapists and exercise physiologists to assist with strength training and improving balance, mobility and limb function.
- Occupational therapists and physiotherapists to provide training around self-care and undertake activities of daily living, pain control and management
- Exercise physiologists and physiotherapists also can provide health promoting wellness programs to develop strength, balance and prevent falls
- Arts therapists and music therapists to assist people with psychosocial aspects of rehabilitation, particularly people with longer-term rehabilitation programs
- Dietitians to assess nutritional status, including the risk of malnutrition, and provide advice on specialised nutritional support such as tube feeding or nutritional strategies to manage chronic conditions such as diabetes
- Speech pathologists to assess and treat people with speech and swallowing difficulties
- Psychologists and appropriately trained social workers and occupational therapists to encourage self-management skills, resilience and provide supports for people to manage and overcome mental health issues that may have a negative impact on achievement of rehabilitation goals.
Common areas of work
Allied health professionals provide rehabilitation services in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities and increasingly in the home, or other community settings. Allied health practitioners working in private practice may provide follow up rehabilitation support.
Common areas of focus for allied health professionals include:
- Helping clients regain physical functionality or adjust to a different level of functionality
- Assisting people to regain their ability to communicate
- Assessing and modifying clients’ home, community or work environments to improve their safety and independence
- Prescribing and educating clients and carers in the use of adaptive equipment to assist function
- Assisting people adjust to life changes resulting from their illness or injury
- Enhancing recovery and rehabilitation through psychosocial interventions to improve mental health and wellbeing.
Access to allied health rehabilitation services
People requiring rehabilitation following significant illness will be funded through the public hospital system or private health insurance if they have an appropriate level of cover. Where a person may require rehabilitation following an injury they may be covered for the cost of rehabilitation services through State and Territory accident schemes such as the Transport Accident Commission in Victoria. Funding for rehabilitation services is also available through state based government agencies that provide workers compensation such as Workcover Queensland and Workcover West Australia.
Allied health services may also be available through community health services or local programs funded by Primary Health Networks. Medicare funding can help people meet the cost of accessing community-based allied health services.