Characterizing British Columbia’s Rural and Northern Home Support Workforce: A Mixed Methods Investigation of Workers and Their Working Lives

BC’s home support system makes an important contribution to the health and well being of the province’s most vulnerable seniors. In 2004/05, home support services were provided to more than 30,000 British Columbians. Most home support users are single senior women over the age of 75, living below the poverty line. Home support consists of personal care services (e.g., bathing, dressing, feeding) as well as basic medical care (e.g., giving medication, keeping wounds clean) provided in people's homes by trained Community Health Workers. Zena Sharman is examining the characteristics and working lives of home support workers in rural and remote BC communities, within the Vancouver Island health authority. She is also investigating factors that contribute to the recruitment and retention of Community Health Workers in rural and remote BC communities. Sharman hopes her research will help improve health services delivery in these communities, particularly in the context of the aging population and related increases in demand for home support services. She also hopes her findings can improve methods of attracting and keeping Community Health Workers.