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) aimed to further the knowledge on HCAs across Europe. This paper presents an overview of the position of healthcare assistants in 27 EU Member States (MSs) and reflects on the emerging country differences. It is 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. Further investments should be made to explore a common understanding of HCAs, in order to feed discussions at policy and organisational levels, while simultaneously investments in the development and implementation of context-specific HCA workforce policies are needed.

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Keywords Europe, Health human resources, Health professionals, Health workforce, Healthcare assistants
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.healthpol.2018.07.004, hdl.handle.net/1765/109477
Journal Health Policy
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Citation
Kroezen, M. (Marieke), Schäfer, W. (Willemijn), Sermeus, W, Hansen, J. (Johan), & Batenburg, R. (2018). Healthcare assistants in EU Member States: An overview. Health Policy. doi:10.1016/j.healthpol.2018.07.004