A Career as a Health Care Assistant

Overview

Health Care Assistants are employed to support other members of a multi-disciplinary team in the provision of care to patients.  They can work with a wide variety of patients including the elderly and those with long-term illness, disabilities and mental health problems.  They will help the patients with their daily routine, including bathing, feeding, dressing and toileting, and also record information such as pulse rate and temperature.

Health Care Assistants are employed within hospitals and residential homes as well as in the community where they assist patients in their own homes.  The role of a Health Care Assistant is to enhance the quality of life of their patients and this often involves accompanying them on leisure outings and shopping trips.

Entry requirements

The nature of the role means that Health Care Assistants often work nights, weekends and shifts, and part-time working is readily available.  This ensures that appropriate care is available to the patient as and when it is required.  This is a demanding role which requires strength of character when tending to the personal care and hygiene requirements of the patients.  Sensitivity and the ability to treat patients with the utmost respect at all times is a high priority.  Some of the more frail patients will need considerable support including lifting them in and out of beds or chairs so physical strength is an important factor.  However, perhaps one of the most important characteristics of a Health Care Assistant is a lively and enthusiastic personality that enables them to bring some fun into the lives of their patients.

Some people enter the health care industry as a result of previous voluntary experience in a caring capacity and many choose to take this further by qualifying as a nurse.  Health Care Assistants are required to complete a number of training courses to ensure that they are skilled in all aspects of the role.  These include health and safety, manual handling, hygiene and personal care.  NVQ qualifications are available in Health and Social Care and these are awarded based primarily on competence in the role.

Health Care Assistants are employed by the NHS as well as by private nursing homes and hospitals.  It is becoming increasingly common for people to want to remain in their own homes at the onset of ill health or old age which means that many Health Care Assistants are employed in a field-based capacity.

Progression opportunities

Pay is relatively poor in this industry and, unless you wish to progress further into a career in nursing, there are also very few opportunities for promotion.  The NVQ qualifications obtained as a Health Care Assistant can actually satisfy the entry requirements for initial nurse training.

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