Healthcare assistants work alongside nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals to support the care of patients, playing a vital role in ensuring their comfort and well-being. Though not qualified nurses, healthcare assistants are sometimes known as auxiliary nurses or nursing auxiliaries. This role is an excellent first step for a career in nursing. Through the experience gained in this role, healthcare assistants can go on to jobs in nursing through gaining qualifications whilst working, which satisfy the entry requirements for nursing training.
What do healthcare assistants do?
Simply put, healthcare assistants help healthcare professionals to care for patients. The exact role can be varied depending on the setting in which they work. This may be in a hospital alongside doctors, nurses, midwives and other specialists, or in a community nursing job under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional.
Generally speaking, the role of a healthcare assistant overlaps with that of a nurse. The main difference is that only nurses are allowed to administer medication and undertake nursing procedures that require specialist training. Having said this, healthcare assistants have a hands-on role to play in the care of patients. They perform simple medical tasks such as inserting needles and taking blood, and recording observations of patients to ensure their comfort – though paperwork is usually the responsibility of the nurses.
Typical duties of a healthcare assistant include the following aspects of patient care:
- Helping patients with personal tasks, such as washing and dressing
- Serving food to patients, and helping them eat if necessary
- Helping people to move around,and turning patients who spend a lot of time in bed
- Being there for patients to ensure their comfort, and spending time talking and listening to give reassurance and ensure the appropriate level of care is given.
- Bed making
- Monitoring patients’ conditions by taking blood, temperature, pulse, respiration and weight
- Setting up equipment for other members of the healthcare team, and assisting patients in their preparation for treatment
Healthcare assistants work across all areas of the healthcare profession in a wide variety of settings, including the NHS (hospital or community-based), private hospitals, residential and nursing homes and hospices.
What skills and experience do healthcare assistants need?
First and foremost a healthcare assistant must be a ‘people person’ as caring for patients is at the heart of the role. Potential healthcare assistants do not need to hold any specific qualifications, or come from a scientific background. A caring and compassionate nature is the main requirement, along with good talking and listening skills to provide support to patients and their families. At times healthcare assistants are required to be calm and work effectively in tough situations, delivering a supporting role as part of a team.
Though there are no specific required qualifications, all healthcare assistants must pass a medical and Criminal Records Bureau check, and for some a driving licence may be useful if visiting patients is required. To make a strong application for the role of healthcare assistant, previous experience in a caring role would be advantageous which can be gained through a volunteering.
This article was written on behalf of Nursing Times Jobs, which is part of Emap Publications. Nursing Times Jobs is a premier jobs board for helping nurses within the UK to develop and advance their nursing careers. Emap is the publication branch of the Top Right Group. Emap specialises in the creation of business-to-business magazines.