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Use, misuse and non-use of health care assistants: understanding the work of health care assistants in a hospital setting

Spilsbury, K. and Meyer, J. (2004) Use, misuse and non-use of health care assistants: understanding the work of health care assistants in a hospital setting. Journal of Nursing Management, 12 (6). pp. 411-418. ISSN 0966-0429

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Aim(s): This study is concerned with understanding the work of non-registered nurses (health care assistants) in a UK hospital setting.

Background: There are increasing numbers of health care assistants employed by the National Health Service in the UK to support registered nurses providing nursing care. However, little is known about the make-up of the health care assistant workforce and the changing nature of their role. This study addresses some of these gaps in the research-based literature.

Methods: A single case study design using mixed methods (survey, interviews, participant observations, focus groups and documents) was used to generate an in-depth account of health care assistants' work in one organization. The study is built upon what health care assistants say they do, compared with what they actually do in practice. It explores how and whether the work of health care assistants is adequately supervised, tensions between the work of health care assistants and registered nurses and the subsequent effects on teamwork and patient care.

Findings: There are policy expectations associated with the work of health care assistants. However, this study reveals significant deviations from these goals. The workplace arena and the negotiations between health care assistants and registered nurses that take place within it, actively shape the health care assistants' work. Findings suggest dynamic patterns of use, misuse and non-use of the health care assistants as a resource to patient care.

Discussion and implications for practice: The changing roles of registered nurses have direct implications for the roles of health care assistants: as registered nurses take on extra duties and responsibilities they are conceding some of their role to health care assistants. This has implications for nurse managers. The competence of health care assistants to carry out nursing work needs to be reassessed and there also needs to be ongoing monitoring and supervision of their work to maximize, and further develop, their contribution to patient care and to ensure quality standards. Managers also need to be aware of the importance of workplace negotiations in the interpretation of formal policies and the subsequent shaping of health care assistants' work at the level of service delivery.

Item Type: Article
Institution: The University of York
Academic Units: The University of York > Health Sciences (York)
Depositing User: York RAE Import
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2009 11:05
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2009 11:05
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2834.2004.00515.x
Status: Published
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
Identification Number: 10.1111/j.1365-2834.2004.00515.x
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/6789

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