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Healthcare Assistant career guide

A helping hand goes a long way and healthcare assistants provide vital support to people within the community.

Safeera Sarjoo
26th April 2016
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What is a healthcare assistant?

One of the hardest things people have to contend with is getting older and relying on others to help them with the most basic tasks. It can be daunting however healthcare assistants provide vital day to day care for patients in both hospitals and at their homes. They work under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional and sometimes can be found working with other professionals such as doctors, therapists, radiographers and even podiatrists.

Some of the work they do involves helping with personal meals and mobility as well as some housekeeping and basic medical checks such as taking their temperature, pulse and respiration rate. This job is definitely unique in that personal qualities do outweigh formal qualifications. Successful candidates are usually people who are friendly, empathetic and caring. They should be able to offer social stimulation in addition to the care they are expected to provide.

Generally, healthcare assistants work on a shift or rota system that can include nights, weekends and bank holidays. Experience working in care along with qualifications is important for this job role, however you may be able to start as a trainee assistant without formal qualifications and work your way up.

What are their responsibilities?

A lot of the responsibilities that healthcare assistants perform are related to their patients. These include:

  • Providing meals to patients
  • Keeping patients comfortable
  • Helping disabled patients get around
  • Perform medical checks such as taking temperature, blood pressure and pulse
  • Keeping patient records up to date
  • Administering treatments to patients
  • Helping patients wash, shower or dress
  • Housekeeping duties such as making and changing beds and keeping home/ward tidy
  • Ensuring stock of supplies and equipment
  • Helping patients to the toilet

What characteristics and skills suit this role?

Working as a healthcare assistant requires an individual who is kind natured, patient and caring. These are important qualities as patients can sometimes feel frustrated at their predicament. Other qualities that are best suited to this role are those who have:

  • An ability to relate to people from a range of backgrounds
  • Tact and sensitivity
  • The ability to work efficiently and maintain confidentiality
  • The ability to work with a respectful approach towards patients
  • Physical stamina
  • Flexibility and an organised approach to work
  • An understanding of health and safety guidelines

Entry requirements and Training

You could start working as a healthcare assistant as a trainee without formal qualifications, however holding GCSEs or a qualification in health care is incredibly useful. Students who leave directly from school can access apprenticeship programs depending if they’re running in your area. Trainees learn skills like first aid, health and safety policies, safety techniques and how to care for patients as well as taking vitals.

You may be able to find paid or volunteering opportunities in the NHS or with other organisations in your area. Alternatively there may be volunteering opportunities for you to get a foot in the door that way. The NHS volunteering pages, Do-it and Volunteering England websites are good sources to check out if you’d like to take this route.

Depending on your employer, background checks will be carried out through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) which will check to see if you’re suitable to be working with vulnerable people. Taking a college course can boost your chances of finding work within this area. You can check for healthcare courses on the Training  and Courses website. These could include:

  • Level 2 Diploma in Health and Social Care

You may be able to take a pre-employment programme if you’re looking to move into healthcare work depending on if your local college offers them.

Training on the job is likely to consist of clinical hygiene, health and safety and personal care to name a few. Employers may encourage you to work towards higher level qualifications in healthcare. You could then progress on to becoming an assistant practitioner or working in the community. You could even train as a healthcare professional with a level three qualification such as Diplomas.


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