What is a healthcare assistant?
Healthcare Assistants (HCA) work within a range of NHS hospital or community settings under the guidance of a variety of healthcare professionals. The nature of the role will vary depending upon the area of work. An HCA could be working alongside nurses in hospitals or midwives in maternity services or in mental health, community or General Practice (GP) surgeries, for example.
Healthcare assistants (HCAs) are a vital part of the team that supports the medical staff and patients in wards and departments throughout the healthcare facility. Under the supervision and direction of qualified nursing staff, healthcare assistants carry out a wide range of duties to care for, support, and provide information to patients and their families.
What is the role of a healthcare assistant?
Types of duties may include:
- observing, monitoring and recording patients' conditions by taking temperatures, pulse, respiration and weight
- communication with patients, relatives and carers.
- Support vulnerable adults to help live as independently as possible. This can include providing emotional, physical and personal support.
- assisting with clinical duties
- Support the nursing staff in monitoring and sustaining high standards of cleanliness in the Health Centre
- Assist in Health Promotion including maintaining the Health Promotion boards
- Personal care including infection prevention and control, food, personal hygiene and overall reassurance, comfort and safety
- Promoting positive mental/physical/nutritional health with patients
- Checking and ordering supplies
As the first point of contact for many patients and members of the public, healthcare assistants need to be well-presented and confident with good interpersonal skills. Some of the tasks might be unpleasant so you will need to be flexible and able to help patients with their personal care without getting embarrassed and making sure they are comfortable.
Previous experience in healthcare is desirable but not usually essential, as healthcare assistants are assessed individually to see what tasks they are competent to carry out, and training and development is available for those who want to progress.
Are there opportunities to progress?
There are opportunities to work as an Assistant Practitioner and to work towards an appropriate foundation degree. Experienced healthcare assistants working at a senior level (usually as an Assistant Practitioner or similar level) may be able to obtain a secondment from their current employer onto an appropriate pre-registration programme at university.
The formal route to Nursing or Midwifery is an option for HCAs to consider. Or, with further study, the Allied Healthcare professions could be worth exploring as there are so many fields to work in ranging from Art Therapy, Dietitian, Radiographer, Speech and Language Therapist and many more. Go to the links below to explore further opportunities.