Allied Health Assistants support the deliver of allied health services, under the direction of Allied Health Professionals. They may be have a generalist role, working with a number of allied health professionals such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy, podiatrists, dieticians and speech pathology, or they may be employed specifically to work with one occupational group.
Allied Health Assistants must work under the supervision of the relevant Allied Health Professional (i.e. tasks must be delegated to them by an Allied Health Professional). The level of supervision and monitoring will depend on the experience, skill and qualifications of the assistant and the practicalities of the work environment. Supervision may range from face to face daily interaction to less frequently and by telephone or video.
The scope of practice for assistants (what they can and can’t do) is guided by the employing organisational and professional associations/regulatory bodies.
Benefits of Allied Health Assistants
Allied Health Assistants have benefits to the clients (more contact time), the clinician (freeing up time for higher level clinical practice) and the local community in developing positions and career opportunities that may not otherwise be available.
In terms of workforce, Allied Health Assistants can facilitate a continuity of service with a stable workforce sector (Allied Health Professionals tend to come and go), opportunities to develop a local health workforce where for a number of reasons tertiary education is not an option, and providing employees with a ‘taste’ of what an Allied Health Professional does that may lead on to a career in an allied health field.
Skills and Qualification
In a remote and rural practice context you will likely encounter Allied Health Assistants with a range of skills and qualifications. Some have no formal qualifications; some will have a TAFE Certificate II, III, or IV in Allied Health Assisting, others may have qualifications and/or experience in areas such as enrolled nursing, aged care, community care, rehabilitation, etc. In remote and rural areas Allied Health Assistants most often receive their training in-house and on the job. The level of training and experience of the Allied Health Assistant will determines what roles they are able to undertake.
Allied Health Assistants & You
As an Allied Health Professional in a rural or remote area you will very likely be working with support staff, particularly Allied Health Assistants. If you are working with an Allied Health Assistant, think about:
- What role and duties does the Allied Health Assistant/s undertake?
- Does your organisation/professional association/regulatory body have guidelines for working with Allied Health Assistants?
- How does working with Allied Health Assistants support your role?
- How can you best support Allied Health Assistants working with you?
- How do Allied Health Assistant change the way health services are delivered?
- Lin IB, Goodale BJ. Improving the supervision of therapy assistants in Western Australia: the Therapy Assistant Project (TAP). Rural and Remote Health, vol 6; 2006.
- Goodale BJ, Spitz S, Beattie NJ, Lin IB. Training rural and remote therapy assistants in Western Australia. Rural and Remote Health, vol 7; 2007.
- Allied Health Assistant Tools and Resources (WACHS)
- Rural and Remote Allied Health Competencies: Allied Health Assistants (WACHS)
- Aboriginal Allied Health Assistant Project (WACHS).