This paper presents an overview of research into the role of paid non-professional nursing helpers This term refers to auxiliaries, ward clerks, healthcare assistants and support workers The focus of the review is on work earned out on attitudes of qualified staff to the role of the helper, role descriptions and the role of the helper in different organizational modes of work Some of the research reviewed in relation to the role description and attitudes to the helper date back to 1978 However, the emphasis of the paper is on research published in the past 3 years The research is reviewed against the background of two theoretical frameworks, both of which are perceived to be useful in analysing the division of labour between the nurse, the patient and the helper