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Healthcare assistants in EU Member States: an overview.

Kroezen, M., Schäfer, W., Sermeus, W., Hansen, J., Batenburg, R. Healthcare assistants in EU Member States: an overview. European Journal of Public Health: 2018, 28(supl. 4) . Abstracts: 11 th European Public Health conference: Winds of change: towards new ways of improving public health in Europe, Ljubljana, Slovenia 28 November –1 December 2018.
Background
With many European countries facing health workforce shortages, especially in nursing, and an increasing demand for healthcare, the importance of healthcare assistants (HCAs) in modern healthcare systems is expected to grow. Yet HCAs’ knowledge, skills, competences and education are largely unexplored. The study ‘Support for the definition of core competences for healthcare assistants’ (CC4HCA, 2015-2016) provides an overview of the position of healthcare assistants in EU Member States and reflects on the emerging country differences in terms of HCAs’ knowledge, skills and competences, and educational and regulatory frameworks.

Methods
To provide an overview of the current position of healthcare assistants in all 28 EU Member States (MSs), the CC4HCA study conducted a survey among key informants (i.e. national experts) from 14 MSs. Survey data from 14 MSs that were included in a previous pilot study were updated where necessary and reanalysed. Descriptive analysis using univariate statistics were performed on a large number of aspects of the HCA role and position in the EU MSs.

Results
It was shown that most learning outcomes for HCAs across Europe are defined in terms of knowledge and skills, often at a basic instead of more specialized level, and much less so in terms of competences. While there are many differences between MSs, there also appears to be a common, core set of knowledge and skills-related learning outcomes which almost all HCAs across Europe possess. Country differences can to a large extent be explained by the regulatory and educational frameworks in which HCAs operate, influencing their current and future position in the healthcare system.

Conclusions
Further investments should be made to explore a common understanding of HCAs, in order to feed discussions at policy and organisational levels, while simultaneously investment in the development and implementation of context-specific HCA workforce policies are needed.

Key messages:
The importance of healthcare assistants in modern healthcare systems is expected to grow.
Increased knowledge of HCAs can contribute to effective HCA workforce policies at policy and organisational level.