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Health Care Assistant - An Overview | Nursing Times Jobs

An overview of the role of the healthcare assistant and the opportunities this role provides.
Written on 8/20/13

Health care assistants are a vital part of the NHS - working within a hospital setting, alongside nurses and other medical professionals, to help with the treatment of patients and the running of wards. For many patients, a health care assistant is the first point of contact with the hospital system, so employees in the role need to be professional and well trained.

What does a health care assistant do?

Health care assistant jobs involve work with nurses, doctors and clinicians across a huge variety of tasks - from direct interaction with patients to co-ordination with other members of hospital staff. Healthcare assistant duties include:

  • Addressing the physical needs of patients, changing bed sheets, emptying bedpans, and assisting with baths and showers.
  • Cleaning and tidying the hospital environment and maintaining equipment in departments and wards.
  • Assisting with certain procedures - such as recording medical observations, temperature and blood pressure measurements.
  • Helping patients move about the wards and interacting with family.

Health care assistants need to show versatility and compassion towards the unique needs of each patient. Work takes place in a variety of settings - with opportunities in hospitals, GP surgeries, community clinics, nursing and residential homes, prisons, hospices and military bases.

Individuals looking for health care assistant roles should be prepared to work long hours in their capacity as care-givers and be able to travel to a variety of locations. While the work is often exhausting, there is also the potential for a high level of job satisfaction as assistants directly improve the lives of their patients.

How do I become a health care assistant?                                                       

Unlike nurses, health care assistant positions do not require higher education qualifications: while there are no national minimum requirements, applicants will normally be required to have two GCSEs with A - C grades, or have gained around 6 months' experience in personal care (professionally or voluntarily).

Many healthcare assistants working in the industry get their start via apprenticeships, in which paid work is complemented by academic and practical training. It is possible to obtain QCF qualifications (Qualifications and Credit Framework) in health care assistant roles: level 2 QCF qualifications allow employees to take more responsibility in their professional capacity, while level 3 QCFs count towards the entry requirements for nursing degrees.

Careers in health care

Many health care assistants work in the position before beginning careers in the wider industry. The role is especially popular with prospective nurses, since it demonstrates an ability to interact with patients and manage the pressures of a hospital environment. Many institutions provide assistance to employees who are seeking to move into a career in professional healthcare.

Prospective health care assistants may bolster their chances of successful application by gaining experience through volunteer posts. Previous experience is not essential, however, since interviews assess candidates' abilities individually and training is provided on the job for those who want to advance their careers. For available health care assistant roles, please check out the jobs we have available