Implementing the Assistants in Nursing (AIN) role in hospitals and health services brings a number of challenges for organisations. We had the chance to speak to Darrin Cowan, Clinical Nurse Consultant at Northern Sydney Local Health District, NSW Health the importance of a scope of practice for AINS and his experience at Northern Sydney Local Health District.
What are some of the key challenges hospitals and health services face when planning to implement the (AIN) role?
Darrin Cowan: There are a number of key challenges for health services that are planning to introduce AINs into the clinical setting. A key one would be the absence of professional regulation. AINs are not registered as health practitioners. This places them in a unique category of staff providing direct patient care.
For mental health services in particular, the challenge has been to develop a ‘scope of practice’ that defines the role of the AIN in the mental health context. Our presentation will discuss that issue among others.
How important is establishing a national scope of practice for the Assistant in Nursing role?
Darrin Cowan: In the general setting, NSW Health has already made a significant contribution to that issue in the context of acute clinical care. I would suggest that defining a scope of practice for AINs working in mental health is probably going to happen according to local needs. However, what our research has established effectively is a process by which scope of practice can be developed. The scope of practice that emerged from this process may well serve as a framework for other mental health services, but would likely require modification depending on local circumstances.
How have Northern Sydney Local Health District been embedding AIN strategy into your health service and what have been the key milestones so far?
Darrin Cowan: Northern Sydney LHD have engaged in a thorough redesign process, aimed at carefully developing a scope of practice based on expert opinion and consultation with key stakeholders. In addition, the introduction of AINs into the mental health context is supported by a comprehensive induction and training framework. Importantly, this framework includes training and support for existing RNs and other clinical staff as well as the AINs themselves.
You’re speaking at IIR’s 2nd Annual Assistants in Nursing Conference, taking place on the 29th-30th August. What aspects of the conference are you most looking forward to?
Darrin Cowan: Personally I am looking forward to seeing how the introduction of AINs into more acute areas of health is progressing. For many health services these are new initiatives with wide ranging implications for health service delivery.
We have the ongoing challenge of monitoring and evaluating these initiatives and I will be interested to learn how other services are planning their evaluations, or what outcomes they may already have.