By the same authors

From the same journal

From the same journal

Support workers in community mental health teams for older people: roles, boundaries, supervision and training

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Mark Wilberforce
  • Michele Abendstern
  • Sue Tucker
  • Saima Ahmed
  • Rowan Jasper
  • David Challis


Publication details

JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
DatePublished - 1 Jul 2017
Issue number7
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)1657-1666
Original languageEnglish


Aims: The aim of this study was to explore the support worker functions in community mental health teams for older adults in relation to roles, boundaries, supervision and training. Background: Support workers in community mental health teams provide important help to older people with complex mental and physical health needs in their own homes. Their numbers have grown substantially in recent years, but without professional registration there is concern that boundaries with qualified practitioners are insufficiently clear and that they do not receive the support they require. Design: Qualitative research using interview data and thematic framework analysis investigated support workers’ and registered practitioners’ perspectives on roles, boundaries, supervision and training. Methods: Semi-structured face-to-face interviews were undertaken in 2011, with 42 members of nine teams spread across England, including support workers and community mental health nurses. Coding of transcribed audio-recordings and subsequent analysis was undertaken by four researchers. Results: Support workers undertook diverse roles and had considerable autonomy over their duties. Participants agreed about what tasks support workers should not undertake, yet there was evidence of ‘negotiated’ boundaries and examples of these being breached. Lines of authority were complex, yet support workers were supported through open communication with the wider team. Training was problematic, with few courses tailored for support workers and efforts towards formal qualification hindered by low pay and time pressures. Conclusion: Local and national attention is needed to prevent ‘drift’ into activities that both support workers and registered practitioners consider outside their remit. Barriers to training and further qualification need to be addressed.

    Research areas

  • healthcare assistants, nursing, roles, supervision, support workers, training, unlicensed assistive personnel

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