Are healthcare aides underutilized in long-term care? New study examines continuing care facilities in Canada – Crane Library Web Pick of the Week

downloadWith increasingly high demands, rising costs and scarcity of healthcare resources (including workforce shortages) in the last 10 years, appropriate workforce utilization has become an important discussion amongst healthcare practitioners and policy makers in Canada.1

The ever-evolving role of healthcare aides (HCAs) has expanded to meet these shortages. Healthcare aides, also known as personal care home attendants, support workers, nursing aides and nursing assistants and help to provide physical and emotional support for patients under the supervision of nurses or other healthcare professionals.2 In Canada, healthcare aides provide up to 80% of direct care in nursing homes. There is no set educational standard for healthcare aides to enter practice in Canada, as competencies vary by province.3 Beyond healthcare aides’ competency profile, there are several factors that are important to consider when trying to decide how to best utilize healthcare aides in continuing care facilities.  For example, it has been shown that involving healthcare aides in more skilled work, such as assisting with medications, can enhance feelings of personal and professional accomplishment. This, in turn, can lead to greater job satisfaction and retention among employees and improve residents’ quality of life.4,5,6

However, very little research has examined standardized training, education and scope of practice for healthcare aides. In this Canadian study, Arain, Deutschlander, and Charland (2017) look at the differences in healthcare aide training and utilization in continuing care facilities.1 Results of the study showed variation in how healthcare aides are employed in supportive living and long-term care facilities. Healthcare aides in supportive living were more likely to be involved in medication management and medication assistance training was mandatory for most healthcare aides in these facilities. These results suggest that healthcare aides in supportive living facilities are better utilized according to their training and competencies.

Expanding the role of healthcare aides in long-term care facilities may be a cost-effective solution to workforce shortages and a more efficient way to utilize resources in continuing care in Canada.

To read the full study, click on the following link:

1 M. A., Deutschlander, S., & Charland, P. (2017). Are healthcare aides underused in long-term care? A cross-sectional study on continuing care facilities in Canada. BMJ open, 7(5), e015521.
2 Hewko, S. J., Cooper, S. L., Huynh, H., Spiwek, T. L., Carleton, H. L., Reid, S., & Cummings, G. G. (2015). Invisible no more: a scoping review of the health care aide workforce literature. BMC nursing, 14(1), 38.
3 Berta, W., Laporte, A., Deber, R., Baumann, A., & Gamble, B. (2013). The evolving role of health care aides in the long-term care and home and community care sectors in Canada. Human resources for health, 11(1), 25.
4 Estabrooks, C. A., Squires, J. E., Hayduk, L., Morgan, D., Cummings, G. G., Ginsburg, L., … & Norton, P. G. (2015). The influence of organizational context on best practice use by care aides in residential long-term care settings. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 16(6), 537-e1.
5 Chou, S. C., Boldy, D. P., & LEE, Y. H. (2002). Measuring job satisfaction in residential aged care. International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 14(1), 49-54.
6 Pekkarinen, L., Sinervo, T., Perälä, M. L., & Elovainio, M. (2004). Work stressors and the quality of life in long-term care units. The Gerontologist, 44(5), 633-643.

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