Comparing Nursing Home Assistive Personnel in Five Countries
Assistive personnel are the primary caregivers in long-term residential care (LTRC) in industrialized countries. Our goal is to describe and compare the work-related characteristics of assistive personnel in LTRC in five countries (Canada, Germany, Norway, U.K., and U.S), which may reflect how various societies view their responsibility to aging populations and the workers who care for them. OECD and national statistical databases are used to assess and compare the work context for assistive personnel. Analysis of the statistical data is informed by on-site observations in nursing homes with reputations for high quality, close readings of these organizations’ documents and records, and interviews with LTRC staff. Pay is generally low and the work required of assistive personnel is often demanding in all countries studied. While most assistive personnel have completed high school, formal certification requirements vary considerably. Professionalization is increasing in Norway with its high school major in eldercare, and in Germany, which has a 2-year certificate program. Financial compensation for assistive personnel in Norway and Canada is greater than in the other countries. Union membership for assistive personnel ranges from very high in Canada to negligible in the U.S. Some countries studied have training programs of only a few months duration to prepare assistive personnel for highly demanding jobs. However, in Germany and Norway, training aims to professionalize the work of assistive personnel for the benefit of workers, employers, and residents. There are high rates of part-time and/or casual work among assistive personnel, associated with reduced employment-related benefits, except in Germany and Norway, where these benefits are statutory for all. Data suggest that unionization is protective for assistive personnel, however union coverage data were not available for all countries. The need to improve the qualifications and training of assistive personnel was observed to be a national priority everywhere except in the U.S. Compensation is relatively low in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany, despite the important jobs performed by assistive personnel. Finally, to improve future research, statistical mapping of this critical component of the labour force in LTRC should be a greater priority across high-income countries.
KeywordsLong-term residential care Human resources Comparative Assistive personnel Care aides Nursing homes
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