• 21 May 2021
  • 12 min read

A Day In The Life Of A Healthcare Assistant

  • Dorcas Salako
    Student Nurse and Healthcare Assistant
    • Richard Gill
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Mat Martin
    • Laura Bosworth
    • Dorcas Salako
    • Samuel El
  • 0
  • 359
"There are beautiful moments that stick to your memory, and sad moments that you want to quickly forget at the end of that shift."

What does a Healthcare Assistant do? What are the tasks? How does a typical day look? We asked Dorcas, who works as a HCA to tell us.

Topics Covered In This Article

What Is It Like To Work As A Healthcare Assistant?

Snapshot Of The Day Of A Healthcare Assistant, By Hour

The Key Tasks Of A Healthcare Assistant

Outline Of The Healthcare Assistant's Role In Residential Care And Hospitals

How Long Do We Get For Our Breaks?

What Are The Break-out Facilities Like?

How Do Night Shifts For Healthcare Assistants Compare To Day Shifts?

Who Do HCAs Escalate Matters To?

Teamwork

After A Day Or Night Shift As An HCA I’m Exhausted

What Is It Like To Work As A Healthcare Assistant?

A Healthcare Assistant (HCA) does not have the most glamourous role in the healthare sector, but it is vital.

It can be draining for individuals that pursue it as a career.

There is no special requisite for being a Healthcare Assistant (find out the typical entry requirements and qualifications needed to be a HCA) but what matters is having the passion to work with people of different races and caring for people from different backgrounds.

Irrespective of where you are assisting, whether a hospital or a care home, you must follow the rules and regulation of the company you are working in.

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A typical day as a Healthcare Assistant can be sometimes infuriating, to be honest.

At the end of a work day, some people will say; “it was a beautiful day at work today”, “it was lovely”, etc. but that is not always completely true.

A typical day always consists of unsupervised moments, keeping track of time, being able to perform well in a team, having resilience and accuracy especially when medication is prescribed and most importantly having a good sense of humour.

As a Healthcare Assistant you must also have the 6C’s in your behaviour.

You must be self-disciplined; you must show accountability and responsibility and be ready to face any challenge that comes your way daily because every day is usually different.

Working as a Healthcare Assistant for the past 9 months has been rosy and tart.

There are beautiful moments that stick to your memory, and sad moments that you want to quickly forget at the end of that shift.

I have been in situations where I had to be resilient in order to finish the days task, alongside, I had to show the 6C’s and ensure I perform my duty and also make every individual happy.

Snapshot Of The Day Of A Healthcare Assistant, By Hour

7.30

A typical day is like getting to work 30 minutes before the start of the shift which could be like 7:30 am, then meeting colleagues and the nurse in charge for handover just to have an idea of what the day’s task entails

8.30

Then I proceed to breakfast. I serve breakfast to all residents or patients. This happens between 8:30am to 11am daily.

11.00

Afterwards, between 11am to 1pm, I carry out shower or body wash activities. Sometimes tea-time follows this, although not every home or hospital has tea-time.

13.30

From 1:30pm to 3pm, lunch call will be done.

15.00

From 3pm to 6pm pad changes and tea would be done just to get ready for dinner.

19.00

Then at 7pm, dinner will be served to the residents. And, an hour later, the Healthcare Assistants get everyone ready for bed. However, every documentation must be done before leaving.

This is very important so the nurse in charge can use it as a handover at the end of the shift for the night staff.

As a Healthcare Assistant, I start to get ready to go home after a long day. This is what it feels like every day, some days can be worse if we do not keep track of the time. Timing is very essential.

The Key Tasks Of A Healthcare Assistant

Handover

The first part is arriving at work; I arrive at work at least 30 minutes to the start of my shift so I can be mentally prepared for the day and also to join the handover so I can have an idea of what the day task entails.

In addition, I look at the care plans to see if there have been any changes.

The next thing is completing the daily routine, at the start of every shift I always make sure to introduce myself to the patients, to make them feel comfortable.

Although, they might have been seeing me every day I still need to introduce myself because some of them may have forgotten.

They see different staff every day, or they may forget the names of staff due to their health conditions.

Patient Call Bells

Then I proceed to the rest of the tasks: responding to Patients Call Bells and doing comfort rounds throughout the day whenever the patient / resident needs something. This can be sometimes demanding.

As a Healthcare Assistant you need to make sure you meet their needs. You have to be alert at all times.

You must be particularly alert to patients that are vulnerable. As an HCA, you need to watch over them. This is also classified as one-to-one duty; e.g. when the patients can easily escape or have a tendency of falling.

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Do you have any questions for Dorcas?

Ask any questions about what a HCA does below

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Mealtimes

Another aspect of the day are mealtimes; when the meal arrives from the kitchen, it is usually on a trolley.

HCAs serve each resident their meal according to their meal type. It is usually starting from the puree then proper meal follows.

After everyone is done, the dishes will be placed on a trolley and sent back to the kitchen to be washed.

Helping Visitors

Sometimes relatives come to visit their family members so Healthcare Assistants needs to help monitor or direct them when they arrive.

Documentation

Documentation of the daily tasks is very important; you have to document everything you have assisted the patient with (from feeding to the chat you had with them to the personal care given).

This is very important because of any future incident that might occur.

Preparation

Lastly, preparation for the next day is very crucial, you need to have an idea of what the next day is going to look like (it might not be as planned). Like I mentioned above, every day is different but preparation helps give guidance and make things easier.

Outline Of The Healthcare Assistant's Role In Residential Care And Hospitals

Healthcare Assistants perform various roles in residential care homes, personal homes or hospitals.

Healthcare Assistants support patients with all aspects of their day-to-day living to meet their needs.

In addition to general social and physical activities, the other roles HCAs take on are:

● personal care

● feeding

● mobility

Plus, some assistance with:

● taking temperatures

● checking pulse

● monitoring respiration

● measuring weight

● help with medication (if required and only once trained)

Here’s a little more detail on the first three roles:

Personal Care, Feeding & Mobility

One of the most important obligations a Healthcare Assistant has is to ensure every individual they are looking after feels comfortable and happy.

For me, in my role as a Healthcare Assistant, at every shift I must assist with personal hygiene care like body washing or a shower, washing hair, shaving for the men, dressing them.

Just ensuring they look presentable.

It is important for their dignity that we help them with their appearance - just because they cannot do some certain things themselves they must not be deprived of this.

We must make them look nice and feel fine.

Another role I assist with is feeding and I make sure their environment is tidy and looks nice.

I have a chat with those of them that can communicate well, I assist with some physical activities and lastly, I do the clinical wastes.

After performing all these duties for a day, I go home. It looks so easy but trust me it is not.

How Long Do We Get For Our Breaks?

Break times for Healthcare Assistants vary depending on the hours being done.

If it is a 12-hour shift, which I do often, then an hour break is very much required.

If it is an 8-hour shift, then 40 minutes break is required and if it is a 6-hour shift, 30 minutes break is needed. This also applies to night shifts.

What Are The Break-out Facilities Like?

Every company always has a staff-room or canteen where staff can stay during their break hours.

During lunch time, every Healthcare Assistant taking their break for that hour goes to the staff-room or canteen and eat their lunch either the food they bring from home or the one provided by the company.

During my break hours, because I am an agency staff, I bring my own food from home.

There are some care homes where food is provided for HCAs.

Lunch hour is when you have the time to chat with your colleagues and you can take a quick nap as well depending on the hours left for you.

After I finish my meal, most time I am usually on my phone because during work hours phones are not allowed or sometimes.

Then I may take a quick nap. It is usually not crowded because not everyone has a break at the same hour.

How Do Night Shifts For Healthcare Assistants Compare To Day Shifts?

Personally, I would say I prefer night shifts compare to day shifts.

Most of my work hours are night shifts.

A night shift is a bit different from a day shift.

During night, the shift usually starts at around 8pm so I arrive 30 minutes before, same with the day.

This is the order of events for night shifts for HCAs:

● Handover

● Tea

● Final care / toileting

● Documentation

● Break

● Checks / observations

● Bodywash / shower

Here are those same activities in a little more detail:

Handover will be given from around 8pm to 8:30pm, then sometimes, tea would be given to some patients that are still awake.

Night shift staff will carry out final continence care and toileting before everyone eventually sleeps - at around 10pm to 11pm.

Then after that, the most important thing to be done is documentation.

After Documentation is done, I observe my one-hour break, during this period I eat my snacks and sleep.

At the end of my break, I go back in and take over the hourly checks from colleague.

During night shift, there are usually observations to be done on patients, some of them have 30 minutes observation while some have one-hour observation.

So, I do that and sit in the lounge until it is around 6 in the morning, then I and my colleagues give everyone a bodywash or shower and get ready to proceed home.

This is all that is done during the night shift, it feels easier.

I would advise if you are a night person or you feel your night should be productive this is what best suits you. So far it has been my best.

Who Do HCAs Escalate Matters To?

Being a Healthcare Assistant there are so many challenges to be faced.

Incidents occur and of course need to be reported to someone.

No matter how careful you are providing care to patients there are some things you cannot prevent because of course no one is 100% perfect.

When incidents occur, the regular guideline is to escalate any problem to the nurse in charge.

Every shift always has nurses present.

So, when there is any problem, the nurse would handle it, and give an incident form to be filled just to keep records for future purpose, in case any eventuality such as death.

I have always reported every problem to the nurse in charge as a Healthcare Assistant. Patients with mental illness can often have a dispute with Healthcare Assistants. One needs to always escalate to the nurse in charge.

Teamwork

Teamwork is very essential in the healthcare sector.

Without good teamwork the work might not be done well and it will be a bad day.

Healthcare Assistants are only human and they could be people from different races, ethnicity and backgrounds.

People have different behaviours and can be sometimes difficult to work with.

But you as an individual need to be patient and must be able to accommodate people’s attitude.

Some people are a little reluctant at work, some just want to do their tasks very fast work and not perform the proper routine.

During my experience, I had a colleague that just wanted to finish so quick she decided to just change the service users’ clothes without washing and I could not question her because she was a senior staff. So I escalated to this to the nurse in charge.

I have also had experiences where some of my colleagues were discriminating and they did not want to work with me.

There are different people with different behaviours and not everyone can work in a team.

If such things happen, it should always be reported to the person in charge whether nurse or Registered Manager.

After A Day Or Night Shift As An HCA I’m Exhausted

The end of every shift is like winning a jackpot, there is a genuine happiness that comes within you.

Either day or night I am usually exhausted, and my internal body system automatically feels like it is going to break down at that point in time.

And I would feel like flying home.

Usually, on my way home, I would have planned every single thing I would do by the time I arrive home.

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Do you have any questions for Dorcas?

Ask any questions about what a HCA does 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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