BACKGROUND: The Dutch health care system faces huge challenges with regard to the demand on elderly care and the competencies of professionals required to meet this demand. However, a recent study showed that the curricula in vocational education for nursing assistants and care helpers remains inadequate to prepare them for the social and healthcare needs of the elderly.
OBJECTIVE: To determine the essential competencies for the initial education of nursing assistants and care helpers in elderly care.
METHODS: First, a draft version of essential competencies for the education of nursing assistants and care helpers in elderly care (N=120) was developed and approved by experts, also members of the project steering committee. Second, a Delphi survey was conducted to determine the essential competencies. The Delphi panel consisted of eleven field experts (teachers/educational developers) working for different vocational education training colleges in the Netherlands.
RESULTS: Ten panel members participated in a two-round consensus building process via email. A definitive set of 116 essential competencies for the initial education of nursing assistants and 42 essential competencies for the initial education of care helpers were determined.
CONCLUSIONS: The competencies in the definitive set are more in line with social and healthcare needs of the elderly like: autonomy, daily functioning prevention of health problems, healthy ageing and wellbeing, involvement of informal care, collaboration between professionals and informal care. The main challenge now is to translate these competencies into educational programmes for vocational education training colleges for care helpers and nursing assistants. Recommendations are made for the implementation of these competencies in the Dutch vocational education training colleges for care helpers and nursing assistants.