Defining the role and scope of practice of allied health assistants within Queensland Public Health Services
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Background The uptake and utilisation of allied health assistants as professional support staff has been variable across disciplines and jurisdictions. Although they are potentially very important in the current health workforce context, there is little agreement on their roles or the most suitable methods to define these roles. Method Based on a review of literature, existing role descriptions and focus groups, a Delphi survey process was undertaken. This process comprising three rounds of discussion and clarification via email, with between 107 and 188 participants, was undertaken to define and establish consensus on allied health assistant roles at three levels. Results Three cycles of editing, qualitative feedback and rating of agreement with statements resulted in substantial clarification of roles and a meaningful degree of consensus regarding the role and scope of such positions. High levels of agreement were not reached for more high-level or contested clinical tasks. Conclusions The Delphi process resulted in key tasks and roles being defined and contentious aspects clearly identified. The process facilitated engagement with workforce members most closely affected by these questions. It was a useful means of drawing together the opinions of the workforce and informing implementation trials to follow. What is known about the topic? Allied health assistants are important members of health teams. Current developments in health services necessitate considerable growth in these positions. The role and scope of practice of allied health assistants is poorly defined and varies between disciplines, settings and facilities, which threatens the establishment of these positions. What does this paper add? This study describes a methodology used to define the role and scope of practice of allied health support staff, which resulted in high levels of consensus and documentation of concerns regarding these positions. Tasks and roles have been defined at different allied health assistant position levels. What are the implications for practitioners? The definition of roles and establishment of scope of practice of emerging positions can be substantially advanced by well researched and widely consultative methods. For more advanced allied health assistant positions to be effectively implemented, tasks relating to treatment, leadership, documentation, assessment and team participation must be clearly elucidated and agreed.
Australian Health Review
© 2013 AHHA. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.
Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified