Annex 5: Health worker categories and roles

The health worker types considered in the guideline are described in the table below. Descriptions have been adapted for the purpose of this guideline to be generic enough to apply across settings. They are indicative and illustrative and are not intended as a substitute for the formal definitions of professional bodies or titles used in specific countries.

Broad categoryDescription of qualifications and tasks, for the purpose of this guidelineIllustrative examples of other terms for these types of health workers (some examples may be specific to a country or regional context)
Community health worker (CHW)A person who performs functions related to health-care delivery/information provision and has been trained in some way in the context of the task but has received no formal professional or paraprofessional certificate or tertiary education degree.Lay health worker, village health worker, female community health volunteer, trained birth attendant, trained helpline worker, abortion accompanier, hotline counsellor
Pharmacy workerTechnicians and assistants who perform a variety of tasks associated with dispensing medicinal products under the guidance of a pharmacist. They inventory, prepare and store medications and other pharmaceutical compounds and supplies, and may dispense medicines and drugs to clients and instruct on their use as prescribed by health professionals. Technicians typically receive two or three years of training in a pharmaceutical school, with an award not equivalent to a university degree. Assistants have usually also been through two or three years of secondary school with a subsequent period of on-the-job training or apprenticeship.Pharmacy assistant, pharmacy technician dispenser, pharmacist aide, dispensary assistant
PharmacistA health-care practitioner who dispenses medicinal products. A pharmacist can counsel on the proper use and adverse effects of drugs and medicines following prescriptions issued by medical doctors/health-care professionals. Education includes university-level training in theoretical and practical pharmacy, pharmaceutical chemistry or a related field.Chemist, clinical pharmacist, community pharmacist
Traditional and complementary medicine professionalsA professional of traditional and complementary systems of medicine (non-allopathic physician) whose training includes a four- or five-year university degree that teaches human anatomy, physiology, management of normal labour and the pharmacology of modern medicines used in obstetrics and gynaecology, in addition to their systems of medicine. For the purpose of this guideline, these doctors are included with reference to the provision of elements of abortion-related care as per conventional medical practice.Ayush doctor, Ayurvedic physician, doctor of complementary systems of medicine, non-allopathic physician
Auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM) and auxiliary nurseAn auxiliary nurse is someone trained in basic nursing skills but not in nursing decision-making. An ANM has basic nursing skills and some midwifery competencies but is not fully qualified as a midwife. The duration of training may vary from a few months up to three years. A period of on-the-job training may be included, and this is sometimes formalized in apprenticeships.Auxiliary midwife, family welfare visitor
NurseA person who has been legally authorized (registered) to practise after examination by a state board of nurse examiners or similar regulatory authority. Education includes three or more years in nursing school, and leads to a university or postgraduate university degree or the equivalent.Registered nurse, clinical nurse specialist, licensed nurse, BSc nurse
MidwifeA person who has been registered by a state midwifery or similar regulatory authority and has been trained in the essential competencies for midwifery practice. Training typically lasts three or more years in nursing or midwifery school and leads to a university degree or the equivalent. A registered midwife has the full range of midwifery skills, which include abortion.Registered midwife, community midwife, nurse-midwife
Advanced associate clinician and associate clinicianA professional clinician with basic competencies to diagnose and manage common medical and surgical conditions and also to perform some types of surgery. Training generally requires three or four years post-secondary education in an established higher education institution. The clinician is registered and their practice is regulated by a national or subnational regulatory authority.Assistant medical officer, clinical officer, medical licentiate practitioner, health officer, physician assistant, surgical technician, non-physician clinician, medical assistant, nurse practitioner
Generalist medical practitionerA medical doctor who holds a university-level degree in basic medical education but does not have a specialization in obstetrics and gynaecology.Family doctor, general practitioner, medical doctor, physician
Specialist medical practitionerA medical doctor with postgraduate clinical training and specialization in obstetrics and gynaecology.Gynaecologist, obstetrician
Source: adapted with minor revisions from WHO (2015) (18), including updating some of the names of health worker categories to use current preferred WHO terminology, as presented in the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO), Part III: Definitions of major groups, sub-major groups, minor groups and unit groups, updated 21 June 2016 (available at: