Becoming A Healthcare Assistant

A Healthcare Assistant, also known as an HCA, help to support doctors and nurses by providing care and attention to their patients. They work in hospitals or community settings such as GP practices, under the guidance of a Healthcare Professional (HCP). Some Healthcare Assistants will also work in private clinics and patients’ homes.

The primary role of a Healthcare Assistant is to ensure that the patient is comfortable and well looked after, whichever injury or illness they may be experiencing.

Entry requirements

While there are no formal requirements or qualifications to become a Healthcare Assistant, it is a competitive career path and you may benefit from having the following on your application to stand out:

  • GCSE grades 9 to 4 (A*-C) in Maths and English
  • NVQ Level 3 in healthcare or equivalent
  • work experience (paid or unpaid) in a healthcare or social care environment

In some cases, you may also need a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. You can also gain healthcare experience through apprenticeships.

Skills and personal characteristics required

Not everyone is cut out to be a Healthcare Assistant, as when caring for incapacitated patients the role can be both physically and emotionally draining.

To become a Healthcare Assistant, you’ll need:

  • to have a caring, kind personality
  • to be friendly, cheerful and patient
  • to be hands-on with patients
  • to carry out personal care (bathing, toileting etc)
  • to be able to follow instructions and procedures with care
  • to be able to work in a team environment, but also be able to take initiative
  • strong written and spoken communication skills
  • to be able to relate with people from a wide variety of backgrounds
  • good organisational skills
  • strong observational skills

As a Healthcare Assistant, your position is incredibly valued by both your employer and your patients. Going the extra mile with your patients by sitting with them, comforting them and holding their hand can make a huge difference.

Daily tasks

Not every day will be the same for a Healthcare Assistant. However, typical day-to-day tasks may include:

  • helping with personal care for patients, including bathing, dressing and toileting
  • making beds and tidying rooms
  • sterilising equipment
  • processing samples
  • carrying out health checks, including taking blood and urine samples
  • serving and feeding patients
  • monitoring patients’ conditions, including weight, respiration, pulse and taking their temperature
  • preparing patients for surgery
  • restocking supply cupboards and consulting rooms
  • talking to patients and making sure that they are comfortable
  • attending meetings with HCPs
  • promoting healthcare and health education work

You may find that there are days in which you will be asked to take on tasks that are not typically part of your standard working day, for example if a member of staff has called in sick. However, typically all of your daily tasks as a Healthcare Assistant will be related to healthcare, social care and contributing to patients’ wellbeing.

Working patterns

Typically, Healthcare Assistants will work between 37-40 hours a week, which is likely to be divided into shifts. This means that your work patterns may vary from early to night shifts depending on your rota for the month.

You may also be expected to work on Bank Holidays. If you’re working within a community, you will also be expected to travel between patients’ homes.

In the NHS, Healthcare Assistants are enrolled on the Agenda for Change (AfC) pay system, and would typically begin on a Band 2 level of pay. This would progress to a Band 3 or 4 with the more experience and training gained through your work. Wages may vary if you’re working for a private company.

Career progression for a Healthcare Assistant

Gaining more experience as a Healthcare Assistant can help lead to a variety of different roles; some people decide to specialise in a specific medical area such as podiatry or chiropody. Other career paths include:

  • nursing
  • midwifery
  • family support work or social work
  • radiography
  • becoming a dietician
  • occupational therapy
  • physiotherapy
  • becoming an assistant practitioner

In order to keep advancing in your role, you will need to apply for training to gain the required qualifications needed for your desired position.

If you think that becoming a Healthcare Assistant is the right decision for you, you can get in touch with the EBPC recruitment team to find out if there are any current vacancies available.