AUXILIARY WORKERS: Training Should Meet System’s Demands
To maintain the quality of patient care, changes need to be made in the training and use of allied and auxiliary health care workers such as physical therapists, technicians and assistants, according to a new report by the California Twenty-First Century Workforce Project, an initiative by the University of California-San Francisco Center for the Health Professions and funded by the California HealthCare Foundation. Entitled "The Hidden Health Care Workforce: Recognizing, Understanding, and Improving the Allied and Auxiliary Workforce," the report noted that the 200 professions comprising allied and auxiliary health account for 60% of the nation's 10.5 million-person health workforce. This considerable portion faces three problems: the financial difficulties plaguing health care organizations; downward pressure to be more flexible, tolerant of uncertainty, and more capable team members; and the educators' difficulties in training them. Dr. Jonathan Showstack, UCSF professor of medicine and health policy and co-director of the UCSF Center for the Health Professions, said, "Allied and auxiliary workers suffer from high turnover rates, ill-defined expectations, low pay, and inadequate training. We need to change how we train and use these workers. Otherwise, patient care is likely to suffer." The report offers a number of recommendations to make the auxiliary work force more responsive to patients, including delivering culturally sensitive care; creating work environments that emphasize quality, flexibility, service and diversity; encouraging participation among labor, education and the workforce; and allowing workers more access to career development programs. California HealthCare Foundation President Mark Smith said, "Health care is a labor intensive effort. Unless we are able to change the way the work is done, the way health workers are trained, and the attractiveness for the health care employment sector, we have little chance of sustaining long term change in health care" (UCSF release, 7/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.