Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Supervising Allied Health Assistants: A concerning Skill Gap in Allied Health Professionals

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Supervising Allied Health Assistants: A concerning Skill Gap in Allied Health Professionals

Article excerpt

The purpose of this paper is to identify and discuss the problem of a skill gap in the training of allied health professionals. Allied health assistants are required to work under the supervision of allied health professionals. There is little evidence to suggest supervisory skills are routinely taught as part of the development of professional behavior. With increasing concern about a lack of supervisory skill, there is an opportunity for supervisory skills to be incorporated into the undergraduate curriculum. A combination of classroom and clinical experience is required to ensure this professional skill does not continue to be overlooked. J Allied Health 2013; 42(4):243-246.

ALLIED HEALTH PROFESSIONALS (AHPs) from a range of disciplines routinely work with allied health assistants (AHAs). There is an expectation that AHAs will receive supervision and direction from the AHPs with whom they work. There is a growing concern that a lack of supervisory skills is creating a decline in the quality of supervision for AHAs. While innovative models to enhance the relationship between AHPs and AHAs have been trialed, an increase in the number of organizations offering workplace-based training in supervisory skills indicates an essential professional skill is being overlooked within the undergraduate curriculum. This paper reviews the issues raised in the literature in regards to supervisory skills for AHPs and proposes when in the undergraduate curriculum these skills should be incorporated.

Problem Statement: AHPs are inadequately trained and prepared for the supervision of AHAs when entering the workforce, despite a widely-held assumption that these skills are a key part of professional practice.

The AHP-AHA Relationship

AHAs work within a range of allied health professions and originally came into the workforce to address critical workforce shortages,1 and they have been identified as a critical workforce sector for the provision of allied health services both at present and into the future.2 AHAs may work within, and identify with, a single profession such as physical therapy or occupational therapy assistant, or they may have a more generalist role within a multidisciplinary team.2 While the roles and responsibilities vary between countries, within and between professions, and in response to the level of training received, it is usual practice for AHAs to work under supervision of an AHP.

Professional bodies across the globe describe the essential role of providing supervision and direction to AHAs as part of the expectation of professional behavior for AHPs. National bodies for physical therapy in Australia,3 England,4 Canada,5 and the United States6 all refer to the role of the AHP including supervision of AHAs and responsibility for the work performed by AHAs under their supervision. Occupational therapy bodies in the US, Canada, and England report similar expectations,7-9 as do podiatry bodies in Australia10 and speech and language therapy services in the US and United Kingdom.11,12

It is clear that there is an international expectation that AHPs will supervise and give direction to AHAs. What is less clear is the level of training in supervisory skills that are included in the undergraduate training of AHPs. A systematic review conducted by the Centre for Allied Health Evidence in 2008,13 released as a white paper by the government of South Australia, identified a lack of supervisory skills and a decline of the quality of supervision delivered by AHPs to AHAs. The authors of that work identified that paper by Lin and Goodale (2006)2 as one of the few that addressed training in supervisory skills. Lin and Goodale2 found that a 3-hour training session in supervisory skills was insufficient. The question arises then, if this training in supervision was required for AHPs already in the workforce, was there an identified skill gap in supervisory skills within the allied health professions participating in this study? …

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