Tuesday, 20 December 2016

What do nursing support workers do?

Roger Watson, Editor-in-Chief

What do nursing support workers do that is the same or different form Registered Nurses? Nursing support workers is a general term coined by Christine Duffield - a co-author in this study from Australia - which describes nursing co-workers such as nursing assistants, care assistants and auxiliary nurses. The study by by Roche et al. (2016) and published in JAN titled: 'A comparison of nursing tasks undertaken by regulated nurses and nursing support workers: a work sampling study' aimed to: 'determine which tasks unregulated nursing support staff spend their work time undertaking and to determine differences between the work undertaken by licensed/regulated nurses on units which have nursing support workers and those on units which do not.' As explained by the authors: 'Data were collected from 10 sampled units: six in one large teaching hospital and four in two small non-teaching  hospitals. Nurses on the units were observed in randomly assigned 2 hour blocks occurring Monday through Friday between the hours of 7 am-7 pm over 2 weeks.'

The results showed that: 'Nursing support staff spent the majority of their time engaged in direct care tasks, e.g. admission and assessment, hygiene and mobility. Although licensed/regulated nurses were less likely to undertake direct care tasks compared with support workers, those who worked on units with support workers undertook more direct care compared with those who worked on units without support workers.'  The authors conclude: 'Using objective work sampling data, it was determined that direct patient care tasks were most frequently undertaken by (assistants in nursing) in a sample of medical and surgical units in (Western Australia). Evidence was also found that nursing teams supplemented with (assistants in nursing) tended to be observed providing more direct care overall compared with nursing teams without (assistants in nursing) and that both (assistants in nursing)and regulated nursing staff (RNs and ENs) contributed to this difference.'

You can listen to this as a podcast


ROCHE M. A., FRIEDMAN S., DUFFIELD C., TWIGG D. E. & COOK R. (2016) . Journal of Advanced Nursing doi: 10.1111/jan.13224

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