Brookes staff present study on assistant practitioner role
Friday, 09 February 2018
On Tuesday 23 January, staff from the Department of Nursing, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust presented their joint research project on the role of assistant practitioners.
The assistant practitioner
(AP) role is one that has, historically, been the subject of some discussion.
Classified as a band 4 support worker, APs are expected to have more expertise
than typical healthcare assistants, but still to work under the supervision of
registered nurses (RNs). In many cases, this has led to valuable contributions
to healthcare in the UK (especially when supervising RNs have recognised the
potential of the role). But the role has often been the victim of a lack of
clarity of purpose, with many seeing the function of the role as somewhat
findings of a research study using focus groups, the presentation offered
valuable insight into the role that APs could play in the context of
healthcare. The study was jointly commissioned by the Oxford Health and Oxford
University Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts. The participants were drawn from
across a wide variety of health contexts (from acute, mental health and
community settings), and from their contributions the researchers drew the
following common themes:
could provide a valuable link to bridge the gap between healthcare
assistants and registered nurses. Their increased knowledge allowed them
to integrate well into teams and help to ensure important tasks aren’t
fitting in have been identified, especially where registered nurses are
distrustful of the role or unsure what their responsibilities should be.
of skills, training and responsibility could fluctuate depending on area
and staffing levels. While in times of short staffing, APs were given more
training and responsibility, this trust and support felt like it was not
present when more registered nurses were available.
could be addressed with greater clarity on what an AP’s core competencies
should be. APs would then have scope to diversify their skill set at a
to the fact that accountability would usually sit with registered nurses -
added to the confusion over AP duties - It was felt that some APs were not
being utilised to their full expertise.
It was recommended
that, in practice going forwards, many issues could be resolved with better
demarcation of roles, clearer career pathways (at every level) and more time
given for collaboration and supervision.
With the nursing
associate (NA) role soon to be introduced, it is imperative that the lessons
learned from the assistant practitioner role are put into practice. If NAs, APs
and RNs all have their roles clearly defined, then there is the opportunity for
them to complement and support each. Each role has clear individual value that
they bring to the field of healthcare. So long as this is clear and integrated,
then the way is paved for collective success.
The study was
undertaken by Dr Cathy Henshall, Ms Andre Doherty, Dr Helen Green, Dr Liz
Westcott, Dr Helen Aveyard and a publication is currently under review with BMC Health