Healthcare assistants (HCAs) work within hospital or community settings under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional. The role can be varied depending upon the area in which the person is employed.
Working alongside nurses, they may sometimes be known as nursing auxiliaries or auxiliary nurses. Healthcare assistants also work alongside qualified midwives in maternity services.
The types of duties include the following:
Nursing healthcare assistants usually work a 37.5 hour week on a shift or rota system, typically including nights and weekends. Part-time and flexible working is often available.
Healthcare assistants may also work alongside some healthcare scientists, for example with audiologists, helping them to investigate and treat diseases.
Healthcare assistants, working in healthcare science, work normal office hours or shifts, including evenings and weekends, depending on their particular role and specialism. Part-time and flexible working is often available.
Clinical support workers (sometimes known as therapy assistants or therapy helpers) work alongside allied health professionals such as:
Duties will depend on the form of therapy but are likely to include:
It is possible to enter work as a healthcare assistant (or senior healthcare assistant) through an apprenticeship.
Healthcare assistants and auxiliary nurses may have the opportunity to obtain QCF qualifications at level 2 or 3 in Healthcare Support Services or Clinical Healthcare Support, such as those accredited by CACHE.
Obtaining QCF level 2 qualifications will usually lead to the person having more responsibility in terms of the role they are fulfilling.
An appropriate QCF level 3 qualification will usually be sufficient to meet the minimum entry requirements for entry into nursing training, but prospective candidates should always check entry requirements with the university/universities they are considering applying to.
There are also increasing opportunities to work as an assistant practitioner and to work towards an appropriate foundation degree.
The Open University has a foundation degree programme in Healthcare Practice (and its Scottish equivalent, the Diploma of Higher Education (Dip HE) programme) for healthcare support workers who are already working.
It is open to healthcare support workers without any formal qualifications and is designed to be studied alongside their regular work. It has flexible a 'step on, step off' framework, which opens the door not only to healthcare but ultimately to nursing qualifications.
The first step-on point is a Certificate of Higher Education in Healthcare Practice. Students can step off after they have done this, or go on to do a full foundation degree (or Dip HE in Scotland).
Experienced healthcare assistants working at a senior level (usually as an assistant practitioner or similar level) may be able to obtain a secondment from their current employer onto an appropriate pre-registration programme at university.
Staff seeking secondment must have the academic ability to cope with the course, and if seconded, will usually receive support from their employer. It is for NHS employers to decide whether or not they will second staff from their NHS organisation.
For details of job vacancies, visit the NHS Jobs website.