ASSISTANT PRACTITIONER PEER SUPERVISION by Katy Smith, specialist physiotherapist at RAH. @katysmith8319

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Katy Smith – Specialist Physiotherapist, RAH

The uptake of peer supervision for band 5 and band 6 physiotherapy staff has been invaluable over the pandemic. However, there seemed to be no equivalent for Assistant Practitioners (APs) in GGC. The AP is an evolving role, with staff in many different specialties – from medical to vascular to paediatrics, with more detailed role requirements developing in each specialism.

An assistant practitioner is a non-occupational specific role that has been developed to assist organisations to deliver high quality, patient-centered care in a variety of settings. Although they are not registered practitioners they have a high level of skill through their experience and training. They can support employers in areas of skill shortages or where there are recruitment difficulties. Assistant practitioners can provide a career pathway for healthcare assistants, or as a route to registered professional roles such as a nurse, dietitian, physiotherapist, or healthcare science practitioner. The Skills for Health Core standards for assistant practitioners states that assistant practitioners: “have a required level of knowledge and skill beyond that of the traditional healthcare assistant or support worker. The assistant practitioner would be able to deliver elements of health and social care and undertake clinical work in domains that have previously only been within the remit of registered professionals.”

I brought the idea to Physio Team Leads meeting in Feb 2022 and was well received. The leads kindly volunteered names they thought would be interested in peer supervision and from there I reached out to the AP staff and set up a Teams channel. This also provided an opportunity to create a PDSA cycle, with supervision being the test of change. The aim is by end of 2023, 80% of APs will have access to peer supervision sessions and shared training resources via Teams.

I also sent the APs a Webropol questionnaire to gather some insights about their perception of peer supervision. Most staff had heard of peer supervision but not used as an AP. All respondents either were not aware of any training resources or did not know how to access them. All respondents wanted an opportunity to network and learn from each other.

The first session in March went well and received some positive feedback. The main themes were; staff are keen to be seen as capable and valued staff members, taking an equitable caseload to the other team members, keen to utilise their clinical reasoning skills in assessment and discharge planning, rather than accepting delegated tasks which had been a necessity during COVID staffing challenges. The staff felt sometimes their role was less defined and some physiotherapy staff, as well as nursing staff, were not always aware of the differences between an AP and Generic Support Workers (GSWs) or Health Care Support Workers (HCSWs).

The next planned session in May will look to discuss how we raise awareness of the AP role, and start discussing and creating a bank of training resources available to all APs to share and engage in.

For further info email

@katysmith8319 on Twitter


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