Medical professions and healthcare professions – what does this include?

Medical professions and healthcare professions – what does this include

When they hear the term healing profession, most people probably think of the doctor’s field of work. But in Germany there are other professional groups – some with and others without academic training. In addition, there are also health professionals or non-medical practitioners. Which jobs are on which list? Here is a path through this healthcare jungle.

Medical professions and healthcare professions: definition of terms

Not everyone who recognizes, heals or alleviates diseases is a member of the health professions – after all, mothers often take care of their child’s little ailments themselves doesn’t necessarily think spontaneously. So what exactly are health professions?

The above description is an important pillar for characterizing health care professions: These are professional activities that serve to identify, cure or alleviate diseases or disabilities or provide preventive health care services. A distinction is made between the medical professions in the narrower sense, the academic medical professions, and the medical professions without academic training, which are also referred to as health professions or medical professions. The group of non-medical practitioners has a special position.

Academic Health Professions

These are characterized by university training regulated by federal law, namely as a doctor, dentist, veterinarian, pharmacist or psychotherapist (psychological psychotherapist, child and adolescent psychotherapist). Permission to practice the profession is called an approbation and is a mandatory requirement for working in the respective profession.


Training, admission and employment are regulated in federal and state laws, while the states are responsible for regulating professional practice and further training. In some federal states, the individual laws for academic health care professions are combined into a Health Professions Chamber Act. Academic health care professions are typically organized in public-law professional organizations (“chambers”, e.g. medical association), which regulate professional practice, professional representation and professional jurisdiction at state level.


A doctor is entitled to carry out all activities that he considers necessary and appropriate, which must comply with medical standards and the rules of the healing arts. In doing so, he is obliged to conscientiously examine the usefulness and risks as well as alternatives and to inform the patient precisely about his considerations and steps. The costs of all such services are not covered by the statutory health insurance companies, but many have to be paid for by the patient themselves as individual health services (IgeL).

healthcare professions

These are also referred to as medical professions and include a large number of more or less well-known, very different professions. Other designations such as non-medical health professions, health care professions, health care professions or medical assistance professions are often perceived as discriminatory by the various professional groups, since they neither reflect the wide range of activities and responsibilities nor the legal regulations adequately.


The training and practice of the health professions is regulated by legal regulations – access to the profession at federal level through the granting of a license to use the professional title. Since the federal states have leeway in implementing the laws, training content and qualification standards can differ. The approximately 50 job titles are grouped together:

  • Obstetrics (e.g. midwife)
  • Elderly care and nursing (e.g. pediatric nurse)
  • Assistant professions in medical practices and pharmacies (e.g. pharmaceutical-technical assistant)
  • Medical-technical area (e.g. medical-technical radiology assistant)
  • Rehabilitation (e.g. physiotherapist, dietician)
  • In a broader sense, also health trades (e.g. hearing aid acoustician)
  • Others such as hygiene professions (e.g. disinfector) and professions with a social character (e.g. healing educator)


Naturopaths have a special position: They do not undergo any academic or other legally regulated training and, in contrast to all other healing professions, no state examination is required to practice the profession. The only legal requirements are a completed secondary school education, the age of 25 and an – unregulated – review of the knowledge and skills of the applicant by the health department. If this is positive, he receives a state license to practice medicine professionally, is registered with the responsible health authority and – like the academic healing professions – works independently.


The profession of non-medical practitioner is regulated in Germany by the non-medical practitioner law and the first implementing regulation. However, it is not explicitly defined, but only determined by the demarcation to the professional profile of the doctor (“Practicing medicine without appointment”, i.e. without license to practice medicine). Also to ensure the quality and seriousness of their profession, many naturopaths are voluntarily organized in professional associations. These are civil-law associations, the six largest of which in turn appear together as a community initiative “The German Associations of Alternative Practitioners” (DDH). The non-medical practitioner associations have also published a list of fees, which reputable non-medical practitioners usually use as a guide.


Heilpraktiker – like doctors and psychotherapists – are allowed to “practice medicine on people” (defined in the Heilpraktikergesetz as “professional or commercial determination, healing or alleviation of diseases, ailments or bodily injuries in people”), but are subject to some restrictions: They are not allowed to report Treating infectious diseases and sexually transmitted diseases as well as dental, oral and jaw diseases, they are also prohibited from obstetrics, examination and therapy of genital organs, prescribing prescription  drugs , the use of X-rays, transplantation of tissues and organs, performing blood transfusions and the Postmortem examination with issuing of death certificates.

Otherwise alternative practitioners may, for example, inject,  treat broken bones  and use a variety of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. You may run a practice and run a clinic. Naturopaths are allowed to do more – even without legally regulated training – than, for example, a health worker (formerly a nurse)! However, the following also applies here: A naturopath, like any other member of a healing profession, may only act according to his knowledge and skills and can be held accountable for what he does. A naturopath is subject to confidentiality like a doctor, but to a lesser extent.


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