Open Access Research article

Pilot implementation of allied health assistant roles within publicly funded health services in Queensland, Australia: results of a workplace audit

Michelle Stute1, Andrea Hurwood2, Julie Hulcombe2* and Pim Kuipers3

Author Affiliations

1 Metro North Hospital and Health Services, Herston, Queensland, Australia

2 Allied Health Professions Office, Herston, Queensland, Australia

3 Metro South Hospital and Health Services & CONROD, Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, Meadowbrook, Queensland, Australia

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BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:258  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-258

Published: 16 June 2014

Abstract

Background

Allied health assistants provide delegated support for physical therapists, occupational therapists and other allied health professionals. Unfortunately the role statements, scope of practice and career pathways of these assistant positions are often unclear. To inform the future development of the allied health assistant workforce, a state-wide pilot project was implemented and audited.

Methods

New allied health assistant positions were implemented in numerous settings at three levels (trainee level, full (standard) scope and advanced scope level). Six months after implementation, 41 positions were audited, using a detailed on-site audit process, conducted by multiple audit teams.

Results

Thematically analysed audit findings indicated that both the full (standard) scope and the advanced scope positions were warranted, however the skills of the allied health assistants were not optimally utilised. Contributing factors to this underutilization included the reluctance of professionals to delegate clinical tasks, inconsistencies in role descriptions, limitations in training, and the time frame taken to reach an effective skill level.

Conclusions

Optimal utilisation of assistants is unlikely to occur while professionals withhold delegation of tasks related to direct patient care. Formal clinical supervision arrangements and training plans should be established in order to address the concerns of professionals and accelerate full utilisation of assistants. Further work is necessary to identify the key components and distinguish key features of an advanced allied health assistant role.