Healthcare Assistant: Career Guide

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A healthcare assistant helps with the day-to-day care of patients, either in a hospital setting or at patients’ homes. Also known as nursing assistants or support workers, healthcare assistants work under the supervision of nursing staff.

Getting ready to observe a delivery at Morogoro Hospital, Tanzania Some aspects of your work might be messy or upsetting and it is only in respecting and understanding your patients that you will find that you can do a good job. Being a friendly caring person can make things easier for you. If you are caring it will have a very positive impact on the lives of the people you care for and this might just be the best –suited job for you.

Some of the duties of a healthcare assistant include:

  • Assisting patients with washing up, showering and dressing
  • Changing patients’ bedding
  • Changing the patient’s position if they have been confines to the bed to prevent pressure sores
  • Serving patients food and helping them eat if necessary
  • Talking to patients to soothe and comfort them
  • Helping patients move around in case they have restricted mobility
  • Keeping equipment and supplies clean and ready to use
  • Taking and recording observations such as pulse, breathing and temperature reading
  • Ensuring that the patient’s home is clean and tidy if they are working from the patient’s home

As a healthcare assistant, you everyday tasks might include the use of equipment and mobility aids to help with lifting and moving patients. If you are working in a hospital, you might have to help with moving patients between the departments. Over a period of time, as you gain experience, you might even be involved in the induction training that is conducted for new healthcare assistants.

Hours of work

Generally, healthcare assistants work for an average of around 37 hours per week either in a rotational or shift system. This will include nights, weekends and bank holidays. Part time or flexible hours are available. If you have opted to work in a community setting, you might travel between various patients’ homes right through the day and you might even require a drivers license for certain jobs. 

Income range

If you are working in the NHS, the starting salary you draw could be in the £14,000-£17,000 per annum range. Once you have gained some experience this can go up to around £19,000. At times when you work nights or weekend or even on bank holidays, you might be paid additional allowances.

Prerequisites for becoming a healthcare assistant

You might not require any specific qualifications to begin working as a healthcare assistant. However, though you might not require any formal qualification to begin working as a healthcare assistant, it is always beneficial to have some previous experience either paid or voluntary, in any healthcare role. You can find some opportunities for work in local charities, the NHS or any other organization. Additionally, once you have applied for a job, you are required to pass a medical check-up and also get clearance from the Disclosure & Barring Service.

Once you commence work you will receive on-the-job training from your employer in health and safety, clinical hygiene, techniques for moving and lifting patients, developing communication and interpersonal skills, personal care and measuring and recording temperature, pulse, breathing and weight

Career opportunities 

Experience as a healthcare assistant is an effective way to prepare for a variety of health related careers, ranging from nursing and midwifery to social work. You could also move into assistant practitioner roles or specialist support work in the areas of occupational therapy, physiotherapy, chiropody/podiatry or radiography.

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