The role of unregulated care providers in Canada-A scoping review
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AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: This scoping review explored: (i) the role of unregulated care providers in the healthcare system; (ii) their potential role on interprofessional teams; (iii) the impact of unregulated care provider's role on quality of care and patient safety; and (iv) education and employment standards. BACKGROUND: Unregulated care providers in Canada assist older adults with personal support and activities of daily living in a variety of care settings. As the care needs of an aging population become increasingly complex, the role of unregulated care providers in healthcare delivery has also evolved. Currently, many unregulated care providers are performing tasks previously performed by regulated health professionals, with potential implications for quality of care and patient safety. Information is fragmented on the role, education and employment standards of unregulated care providers. METHODS: A scoping review was conducted following the methods outlined by Arksey and O'Malley (International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8, 2005, 19) and Levac, Colquhoun, and O'Brien (Implementation Science, 5, 2010, 69). An iterative search of published and grey literature was conducted from January 2000 to September 2016 using Medline, CINAHL, SCOPUS and Google. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied to identify relevant studies published in English. RESULTS: The search yielded 63 papers for review. Results highlight the evolving role of unregulated care providers, a lack of recognition and a lack of authority for unregulated care provider decision-making in patient care. Unregulated care providers do not have a defined scope of practice. However, their role has evolved to include activities previously performed by regulated professionals. Variations in education and employment standards have implications for quality of care and patient safety. CONCLUSIONS: Unregulated care providers are part of an important workforce in the long-term care and community sectors in Canada. Their evolving role should be recognised and efforts made to leverage their experience on interprofessional teams and reduce variations in education and employment standards. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: This study highlights the evolving role of unregulated care providers in Canada and presents a set of recommendations for implementation at micro, meso, and macro policy levels.