The Work of the Health Care Assistant in Aged Care - Distraction and Disruption

The Work of the Health Care Assistant in Aged Care.

Distraction and Disruption Occurring Once Every Minute.

Dr Christine Clark. Kalandra Education Group.  2020


We hear all too frequently about how very busy the health care assistant (HCA) is but have we ever really understood this? How effectively could we work if we were working in an environment of continual disruption?

An Australian time and motion study occurring over a six-month period classified the work of the HCA into four main areas: direct personal care (30.7%), indirect care, such as positioning tables, tidying up rooms (17.6%), infection control (6.4%) and breaks (15.2%). We are familiar with these groupings and many of us would agree with the allocation of percentages. Nor would it be surprising to read that verbal communication was reported as the most frequent activity, with this being a standalone event or occurring concurrently during other activities.

However the outstanding finding was the number of times the HCAs changed the activity they were involved in, on an average of once per minute, with activities lasting less than a minute  (Qian, Yu, Zhang, Hailey, Davy, & Nelson, 2012). Not only were the HCA’s disturbed at this frequency, the researchers commented on how surprised they were on the unpredictability of the workflow.

The concept that many people have of the HCA only providing essential care such as bathing and feeding is very inaccurate and does not reflect the psychological, social and physical support that is provided, not just to one client but to many.  Unfortunately the above-mentioned report did not acknowledge the problem solving, time management and intricate communication skills that are interwoven in the day to day activities.

Few people could work effectively in such a complex and unpredictable environment as that provided by aged care, let alone manage with as many distractions, expectations, stress and often duress that the HCA faces. It is time that the real nature of this role was recognised and defined, thereby providing a measure of safety for all concerned.

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