When it comes to jobs in healthcare, the NHS is facing a crisis. There simply isn’t enough staff to fill the available vacancies. Nurses are in particular demand, so in recent years, more healthcare assistants are being hired to help overstretched staff. As a result, there are plenty of opportunities for people looking to care for people with health issues. A Healthcare Assistant, or HCA, is responsible for assisting key medical professionals to care for patients. They work in a variety of environments such as hospitals, community/private clinics, GP surgeries, hospices and sometimes in the home of those they care for. They are also referred to as nursing assistants or nursing auxiliaries.
The duties that come with healthcare assistant jobs are varied and include;
- Washing/dressing patients
- Preparing food and serving patients
- Preparing and sterilising equipment/managing supplies
- Dressing wounds
- Assisting with toilet needs
- Monitoring vital signs
- Preparing patients for surgery
- Taking samples and conducting basic medical procedures
Qualifications To Work As A HCA
No formal qualifications are required to study to become a Healthcare Assistant, however, where there is competition for roles, GCSEs (especially English and Maths) and some previous experience in healthcare, such as the St John’s Ambulance, could be very useful. More relevant will be the personal characteristics and soft skills required to work as a HCA. Ideal candidates will be caring individuals by nature. You’ll be patient, cheerful, friendly and not afraid to get ‘hands-on’ with patients. Good communication/interpersonal skills will be essential, both for talking to patients and taking instructions, or liaising with medical staff.
Training as a healthcare assistant means studying for the Care Certificate, which provides a basic set of 15 standards for health and social care workers . There are also apprenticeships where candidates study while working for the NCFE CACHE level 2 Certificate in Healthcare Support Services and the NCFE CACHE level 3 Diploma in Healthcare Support. Some HCAs go on to join the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) as health practitioner members and continue to update their skills at training events and conferences.
Many patients need care around the clock, so depending on the role, healthcare assistants may be required to work shifts, including nights, early starts and weekends. Working in the NHS, HCAs are paid according to the Agenda for Change (AfC) system, typically starting at AfC band 2, progressing to assistant practitioner (band 3/4) as they gain experience. A newly qualified healthcare assistant can expect to earn between £15,000 and £18,000, while an experienced HCA can earn £20,000 and above.
As far as prospects are concerned, some HCAs complete further training to become a senior healthcare assistant, or even go on to do a degree and become a fully qualified nurse, podiatrist, midwife or occupational therapist.
For more information on working as a healthcare assistant and apprenticeships in the NHS, see here. For a wide range of jobs in healthcare throughout the country, download the Zoek app or visit Zoek UK.
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