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Exploring the role of health care assistants as mobility activators for older people in an Assessment, Treatment, and Rehabilitation ward

Rebecca Mowat, MSc, BSc, (Hons) Osteopathy, BSc Nursing, Lecturer, Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, Tauranga, NZ

Matthew Parsons, PhD, MSc, BSc (Hons), RGN, NZRN Professor in Gerontology, University of Auckland and Waikato District Health Board, Auckland, NZ

Reference

Mowat, R., & Parsons, M. (2016). Exploring the role of health care assistants as mobility activators for older people in an Assessment, Treatment, and Rehabilitation ward.  Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 32(2), 21-29.

Abstract

The health care assistant is a source of untapped potential to support mobility rehabilitation, especially when allied health professionals are not available after traditional working hours. Intensive mobility rehabilitation can improve strength, balance, and confidence. Service benefits could include shorter hospital stays and decreased falls. A qualitative descriptive approach was used to examine the feasibility of health care assistants’ participation in rehabilitation for older people in an Assessment, Treatment and Rehabilitation ward. Health care assistants (n=5) and registered health professionals (n=8) participated in focus groups before and after a mobility programme promoting independence and functional rehabilitation. Ten in-patients who had sustained a fractured neck of femur took part in the functional exercises with the health care assistants. The focus group interview data were analysed thematically. The idea of the health care assistant participating in mobility rehabilitation was supported by the participants. The health care assistants prior to the intervention had strong relationships with nurses but little communication with the wider rehabilitation team. After the rehabilitation programme their major issues were time constraints and role confusion. Health professional findings included the challenges of involving health care assistants as mobility activators with limited staffing and the need for education and mentoring. With standardised training, health care assistants could become increasingly versed in rehabilitation, but for success this will require greater cohesion within the interdisciplinary team to improve communication between team members.

Keywords

Rehabilitiation; health care assistants; nurses; interdisciplinary; mobility

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