Perceived functions and usefulness of health service support workers



Support workers have been advocated as a means of overcoming a shortage of professional nursing practice, whether this shortage is derived from a decrease in budgeted positions or from a lack of persons to fill positions The demand for nursing practice has increased because of a rise in the intensity and complexity of patient care The purpose of this study was to examine professional nurses' views on the non-nursing duties they were currently performing and the possible use of support personnel to assist them in their role of providing patient care Group interviews of qualified nurses were used to develop a questionnaire comprising 40 items concerning support worker duties, 26 non-nursing duties and one item requesting respondents to indicate if a support worker would be useful 408 (60%) nurses completed the questionnaire and 71% agreed that a support worker would be useful Twenty-three support worker activities were statistically significant (P<0 01) in the level of agreement and variation from the undecided position The significant groups of support worker activities determined by principal component analysis using a single factor were clerical, cleaning and stocking and direct patient care, while the indirect patient care group of activities was not significant Forty-six per cent of the non-nursing duties were agreed to, while 50% were seen to be the role of the nurse There were areas of support worker activity which were related to agreed non-nursing duties and other areas where there was an overlap, with the duties being seen as both nursing and suitable for the support worker