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Open Access Research

Assisting role redesign: a qualitative evaluation of the implementation of a podiatry assistant role to a community health setting utilising a traineeship approach

Anna M Moran1, Susan A Nancarrow2, Leah Wiseman1, Kerryn Maher3, Rosalie A Boyce4, Alan M Borthwick5* and Karen Murphy3

Author Affiliations

1 Charles Sturt University, Albury, Australia

2 Southern Cross University, Lismore, Australia

3 ACT Government Health Directorate, Canberra, Australia

4 University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia

5 University of Southampton, Southhampton, UK

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Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 2012, 5:30  doi:10.1186/1757-1146-5-30

Published: 27 November 2012

Abstract

Background

Increasing demands for podiatry combined with workforce shortages due to attrition, part-time working practices and rural healthcare shortages means that in some geographic areas in Australia there are insufficient professionals to meet service demand. Although podiatry assistants have been introduced to help relieve workforce shortages there has been little evaluation of their impact on patient, staff and/or service outcomes. This research explores the processes and outcomes of a ‘trainee’ approach to introducing a podiatry assistant (PA) role to a community setting in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government Health Service Directorate.

Method

A qualitative methodology was employed involving interviews and focus groups with service managers, qualified practitioners, the assistant, service users and consumer representatives. Perspectives of the implementation process; the traineeship approach; the underlying mechanisms that help or hinder the implementation process; and the perceived impact of the role were explored. Data were analysed using the Richie and Spencer Framework approach.

Results

Although the impact of the PA role had not been measured at the time of the evaluation, the implementation of the PA traineeship was considered a success in terms of enabling the transfer of a basic foot-care service from nursing back to podiatry; releasing Enrolled Nurses (ENs) from foot-care duties; an increase in the number of treatments delivered by the podiatry service; and high levels of stakeholder satisfaction with the role. It was perceived that the transfer of the basic foot-care role from nursing to podiatry through the use of a PA impacted on communication and feedback loops between the PA and the podiatry service; the nursing-podiatry relationship; clinical governance around the foot-care service; and continuity of care for clients through the podiatry service. The traineeship was considered successful in terms of producing a PA whose skills were shaped by and directly met the needs of the practitioners with whom they worked. However, the resource intensiveness of the traineeship model was acknowledged by most who participated in the programme.

Conclusions

This research has demonstrated that the implementation of a PA using a traineeship approach requires good coordination and communication with a number of agencies and staff and substantial resources to support training and supervision. There are added benefits of the new role to the podiatry service in terms of regaining control over podiatric services which was perceived to improve clinical governance and patient pathways.