Healthcare assistants (or HCAs) play an important role within the world of healthcare. They are the glue that keeps the wards together, connecting the patients and professional teams by assisting with all the jobs that need doing. There are different types of healthcare assistants and many areas of healthcare that you can work within. If you are thinking of becoming a registered healthcare professional such as nurse, midwife or doctor, becoming a healthcare assistant is a good place to start. It is also an interesting and rewarding job for anyone that wants to work in the medical environment in general.
What areas can I work in?
There are a huge number of areas that require healthcare and maternity assistants. It is easy to move between areas, as you develop transferable skills, which allow you to specialise in fields of interest. If you like the idea of being involved in all the drama, A&E might be for you. If you’d rather drive around a town caring for people in a more relaxed environment at home, you might be more suited to the community. Some examples of areas you could work in are:
- Medical ward (respiratory, oncology, cardiac)
- Maternity (labour ward, postnatal/antenatal ward)
- Community nursing
- GP surgery
- Private wing
What would I be expected to do?
Healthcare assistants can work on a ward, in a clinic or in the community. HCA’s that work within a maternity department are called Maternity Care Assistants (or MCAs). The job role is diverse and can cover many aspects of patient care, depending on the location and clinical field you are working in. You will never be bored, and you will never be sitting at a desk from 9-5 again!
A healthcare assistant on a ward may be performing tasks such as:
- Cleaning, making and moving beds
- Helping patients wash and dress
- Catheter care (as well as inserting/removing)
- Taking bloods and cannulation
- Helping patients to eat
- Wound care
- Stoma bag care
- Taking clinical observations (blood pressure, temperature, weight etc.)
- Helping patients to mobilise and recover from surgery
- Communicating with patients and their families
A maternity care assistant on a ward may be performing the above tasks, but also some additional/different tasks such as:
- Taking baby observations (heart rate, temperature etc.)
- Weighing babies
- Supporting women with breast and bottle feeding
- Assisting in theatre with cesarean sections and instrumental deliveries
How do I become a healthcare assistant?
To become a healthcare assistant you will need the following qualifications and experience:
- GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A*-C) in English and Maths
- A related qualification in health or social care (desirable)
- Paid or voluntary experience in a related job (desirable)
- A Disclosure and Barring Service check (completed once offered a job)
You’ll also need the following skills:
- Good communication and interpersonal skills
- Ability to liaise with other professionals and work within a team
- Happy to work in a fast paced and busy environment
- Possibility of working shiftwork
- Ability to document clearly in patient notes
- To be able to care for people with respect and dignity, from a wide range of backgrounds
- Close observation of patients
Once you have been offered a job as a healthcare assistant, you will receive training from your employer, as well as working alongside senior healthcare assistants to learn practical skills. You will also normally be expected to participate in annual mandatory training, where you receive updates and changes to patient care in your area of work. You will also have the opportunity to enroll on study days and lectures.
How can I progress as a healthcare assistant?
Your employer will offer you opportunities to learn new skills and develop your role. This could include blood taking, cannulation, catheterisation and many other advanced skills. If you enjoy your job role you can become a senior healthcare assistant and take a more managerial lead and be involved in the training of new staff and organising the staff rotas. If you’d like to study further, becoming a healthcare assistant can be a stepping stone to a more specialised career in healthcare and will be vital for training as a nurse, doctor, midwife, physiotherapist, chiropodist, operating department practitioner, social worker and many more roles. Some hospitals will accept healthcare assistants as apprentices in their chosen career and will pay your salary while you study.
How much would I earn?
The basic salary of a healthcare assistant is on average £15,000 – £20,000, depending on experience and skills. If you decide to do shift work you will receive enhancements for working unsociable hours (night shifts, weekends) and for working bank holidays and Christmas.
Why would I become a healthcare assistant?
The job of a healthcare assistant is very rewarding, due to the amount of patient contact. You will care for people in their greatest time of need, and they will never forget you. If you enjoy talking to people, have a caring nature and enjoy working in a team of medically minded people than this would be a good career choice for you. The work can be demanding and busy, but everyday will be different and you will always go home feeling satisfied when a patient has thanked you. You can learn a lot as a healthcare assistant, and there is plenty of opportunity to develop advanced skills, move into other specialised areas and train as a specialist healthcare professional. If you do decide to take this path, you will have a good foundation knowledge and experience of your chosen career and will stand out above many other applicants. Working as a healthcare assistant can be tough – you have to deal with people from all walks of life and some of your tasks may be physically and emotionally challenging, but the feeling of going home everyday knowing you’ve made a difference is worth it.
Are there any current vacancies?
You can search for healthcare assistant vacancies on www.jobmedic.co.uk, which will provide you with all the current vacancies in your area. Check out some of these vacancies below to get started: