Our objective was to characterize Canadian workforce attributes of extended role practitioners (ERPs) in arthritis care.
We used an exploratory, mixed-methods study that was based on the Canadian Rheumatology Association’s Stand Up and Be Counted Rheumatologist Workforce Survey (2015). An anonymous online survey was deployed to groups of non-physician health care professionals across Canada who potentially had post-licensure training in arthritis care. Demographic and practice information were elicited. Qualitative responses were analyzed using grounded theory techniques.
Of 141 respondents, 91 identified as practicing in extended role capacities. The mean age of ERP respondents was 48.7; 87% were female, and 41% of ERPs planned to retire within 5 to 10 years. Respondents were largely physical or occupational therapists by profession and practiced in urban/academic (46%), community (39%), and rural settings (13%). Differences in practice patterns were noted between ERPs (64.5%) and non-ERPs (34.5%), with more ERPs working in extended role capacities while retaining activities reflective of their professional backgrounds. Most respondents (95%) agreed that formal training is necessary to work as an ERP, but only half perceived they had sufficient training opportunities. Barriers to pursuing training were varied, including personal barriers, geographic barriers, patient-care needs, and financial/remuneration concerns.
To our knowledge, no previous studies have assessed the workforce capacity or the perceived need for the training of ERPs working in arthritis and musculoskeletal care. Measurement is important because in these health disciplines, practitioners’ scopes of practice evolve, and ERPs integrate into the Canadian health care system. ERPs have emerged to augment provision of arthritis care, but funding for continuing professional development opportunities and for role implementation remains tenuous.

© 2020 The Authors. ACR Open Rheumatology published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of American College of Rheumatology.