• 13 April 2021
  • 8 min read

I'm A Healthcare Assistant Studying Nursing - Here's What I Know

  • Dorcas Salako
    Student Nurse and Healthcare Assistant
    • Laura Bosworth
    • Mat Martin
    • Richard Gill
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Dorcas Salako
    • Vanessa Oramah
    • Julia Maina
    • Rameeesah Kuddus
    • Shakilah Millian
  • 0
  • 648
"Being a Healthcare Assistant for some months now has been a life-changing experience for me"

Being a Healthcare Assistant has been a life-changing experience. Working in this role has allowed me to discover new skills geared around the career I’m pursuing: Nursing. This is what I’ve learned.

Topics Covered In This Article

The Lifeskills I’ve Learned Working As A Healthcare Assistant

You Can Apply These Lifeskills To Other Roles In Healthcare

Job Stability And Pay

Where Are HCAs Employed?

HCA Duties

How Much Do I Earn As A Healthcare Assistant?

The Typical Career Progression Goals For HCAs

What Personal Skills Do You Need As A HCA?

What Qualifications Do You Need To Be An HCA?

What Qualifications Can You Take While You're Employed As An HCA?

Can You Work For An Agency, And Does It Earn You More Money?

Is Working In The Private Sector Different To The NHS?

What Is The Difference Between A HCA And A Care Assistant?

The Lifeskills I’ve Learned Working As A Healthcare Assistant

Having to provide individual daily duty of care is so fulfilling.

As a Healthcare Assistant (HCA), you want to make sure you provide comfort and quality care to patients. As a HCA, there are a lot of things that could be achieved in this line of career if you have the passion for it.

Pursuing this career would help you develop some life skills. For example, I’ve developed and learned:

● communication skills

● an approachable nature a caring attitude

● good listening skills

● the ability to be able to work with people of all ages and backgrounds

Not everyone has all of these personal skills, but they can be developed through working as a Healthcare Assistant. I never used to feel comfortable communicating or working with people who are older than me.

But being on this career path, I have been able to develop the courage to communicate as well as work with people of different backgrounds.

And in turn this has all been reflected in changes in my daily life outside of work.

You Can Apply These Lifeskills To Other Roles In Healthcare

I would say that the skills you learn as an HCA (the personal skills) provide an opportunity for career development in many areas of healthcare.

You will have also learned basic hard skills too.

And this fundamental, basic experience is needed and can be applied to any role in the healthcare sector.

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For instance, you can progress into becoming a Nurse, Doctor or any other healthcare practitioner by undertaking studies in different levels of education and subjects.

Job Stability And Pay

Of course, working for the NHS provides good job stability, above-living-wage pay and benefits (pension).

There is so much opportunity for securing a job because we are in a society where help is needed, so there is always room to secure a job in this path and it is almost guaranteed.

The pay of a HCA allows you to be comfortable.

Where Are HCAs Employed?

In terms of settings, you can choose a place where you feel most comfortable. You can work in residential care homes, in secondary care (hospitals) or primary care (GP surgeries and communities) or home care in a patient’s home.

When I started, I began with domiciliary care (providing home care in the patients’ homes).

As I progressed I discovered I was not so comfortable with that so I decided to move to residential care homes.

So basically, choose wherever suits you. Healthcare Assistants are needed in all those places.

HCA Duties

Being a HCA takes commitment, care, compassion, courage, competence, and good communication to be able to provide quality care.

The duties carried out by a Healthcare Assistant include:

● helping with feeding

● giving a good body wash

● moving and handling

● supporting daily activities

● suctioning

● assisting with urine testing

● assisting with bloods to perform ECG

● sometimes taking vital signs

Mind you, some of these duties requires training before performing them.

When performing all these duties, you have to be cautious because you are dealing with people’s lives.

I always make sure the patients are aware of what duty of care I am assisting them with.

When performing all these duties, you have to be cautious because you are dealing with people’s lives.

I always make sure the patients are aware of what duty of care I am assisting them with.

How Much Do I Earn As A Healthcare Assistant?

The amount earned as a Healthcare Assistant is quite good and can be enough to meet your basic needs.

The average amount earned as a HCA is about £17,000 to £21,000 yearly.

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This varies by your level of experience and also the type of sector you are working with.

In the NHS, Healthcare Assistant salaries start from £18,005 yearly and with experience, it goes to over £21,000 as a Band 3 and more as a Band 4 (see the Nurses.co.uk Agenda for Change Pay Scale).

In private sectors, Healthcare Assistant pay ranges between £17,000 to £18,000 yearly.

This amount is a very good income to start with, then as time goes on you can increase your level of experience and engage in the sector that pays higher.

The Typical Career Progression Goals For HCAs

As a Healthcare Assistant, if moving further is part of your plan, there are many pathways you can consider.

Like becoming a senior Healthcare Assistant, becoming a Nursing Associate, Registered Nurse, Support Worker, Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Paramedic or Doctor.

Starting as a Healthcare worker is the foundation in pursuing a career in the health sector.

It is very advisable to start from HCA because from here it is very easy to pursue your main goal and if you enjoy being a HCA you can continue and progress into becoming a senior HCA.

What Personal Skills Do You Need As A HCA?

There are some personal skill that is required of a Healthcare Assistant which are:

● good communication skills

● good listening skills

● good sense of humour

● good observation skills

● empathy

These are very important skills that make it easier for the HCA too:

● handle stressful or traumatic situations

● help the patient perform their duty of care

● provide emotional support in hard times

What Qualifications Do You Need To Be An HCA?

To be a Healthcare Assistant there are no ‘special’ (specific healthcare) qualifications needed.

But you do need GCSEs as the entry level qualification.

However, if you want a higher level in the HCA sector you may be required to have some specific course training like Infection Control, Moving and Handling etc.

What Qualifications Can You Take While You're Employed As An HCA?

There are specific qualifications you can engage with while you have your job as a HCA.

This is not compulsory but if you would like to progress in this path, then you can take a Diploma in Health and Social Care, NVQ certificates in Health and Social Care, Open Universities certifications, apprenticeship qualifications, etc.

This is not only for the sake of progression but if you would like to gain more knowledge then you should definitely consider it.

Can You Work For An Agency, And Does It Earn You More Money?

If you are thinking of working for an agency as an HCA it is absolutely fine because you will have all the flexibility needed.

Looking at the pay rate, agency workers get paid more because they are not working every day compared to the permanent staff.

And if you are an agency staff, you can work for more than one agency, that is if your employer agrees, and you would be earning more.

Is Working In The Private Sector Different To The NHS?

There isn't really much difference.

You are still delivering the same quality of care.

There are just some slight differences in the fact that each sector has their mode of operation.

In terms of responsibilities, training, work load, job security, salaries, yes, there are differences.

What Is The Difference Between A HCA And A Care Assistant?

These two roles are not completely different because they have some of the same responsibilities.

What makes them a little different is that the Care Assistant works in care homes, domiciliary / home care and community settings, while the Healthcare Assistant works at the hospital and in clinical settings.

Some people think both names can be used for the same purpose.

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Do you have any questions for Dorcas?

Ask Dorcas questions below

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  • Dorcas Salako
    Student Nurse and Healthcare Assistant

About the author

  • Dorcas Salako
    Student Nurse and Healthcare Assistant

I've worked as a healthcare specialist for 6 months. I'm currently a student advocate for my Adult Nursing Cohort at the University of Northampton.

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