Educational needs and workplace opportunities of allied health assistants: A qualitative pilot
Sharon Mickan, Xanthe Golenko, Nicholas Buys
Introduction: Healthcare assistants perform a broad range of clinical and administrative tasks across many clinical settings and are supervised by most professional groups. This diversity creates challenges for maintaining a consistent scope of practice and consistent patterns of skill utilisation. It is not clear whether formal education in universities for allied health assistants (AHAs) could better shape the role and opportunities for the AHA workforce.
Methods and analysis: An exploratory qualitative study was designed to investigate the perspectives of senior allied health clinicians and academics about the educational needs and workplace opportunities for AHAs. We were interested in whether university education for AHAs could help to shape consistent roles and expectations of AHAs for the future workforce. A convenience sample of participants was invited to exploratory semi-structured interviews, and their responses were thematically analysed and integrated.
Results: Twelve participants, representing eight different allied health professions, were interviewed. Three themes emerged. Participants described the diverse roles, capabilities and expectations of the health assistant workforce. Current vocational training was considered inconsistent and insufficient, and participants reported significant local training occurring to meet the expectations of different work environments. Future educational pathways in university were not supported by any participants for many, largely practical, reasons.
Conclusion: University-level education does not appear to be a feasible tool to ensure consistent workforce roles and expectations for allied health assistants. Instead, AHAs need integrated educational pathways across vocational training and workplace environments. Continued workforce design is required to align assistant and professional roles and expectations.