Unlicensed assistive personnel in the critical care unit: What is their role?

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Driven by an economic imperative, the use of unlicensed assistive personnel (UAP) has proliferated in the health care system, however, their use in the critical care (CC) environment remains relatively new. An analysis of the first phase of a mixed method study, in which interviews with 17 CC nurses were conducted in order to provide data upon which to devise a larger survey, provides insight into the potential uses and misuses of these UAP. An examination of the transcripts, field notes, and diagrams and a comparison of the emerging categories to the literature assisted in identifying several themes important to CC nursing practice. Three themes identified in the analysis-ongoing vigilant assessment, quick response and seeing the whole picture-provide evidence that if UAP are asked to complete tasks allocated to them in other areas, CC nurses will be robbed of vital, albeit subtle, aspects of their nursing practice. As reflective practitioners, CC nurses must be wary of giving away tacit features of their role which enable them to synthesise contextual variables with espoused theory and experience, in order to ensure optimal patient care and outcomes.

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