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The role of the healthcare assistant

Healthcare assistantWhat is a healthcare assistant?

Healthcare Assistants (HCAs) work within a range of NHS hospital or community settings under the guidance of a variety of healthcare professionals. The nature of the role will vary depending upon the area of work. An HCA could be working alongside nurses in hospitals or midwives in maternity services or in mental health, community or General Practice (GP) surgeries, for example.

What is the role of a healthcare assistant?

Types of duties may include:

  • observing, monitoring and recording patients' conditions by taking temperatures, pulse, respirations and weight
  • communication with patients, relatives and carers
  • assisting with clinical duties
  • personal care including infection prevention and control, food, personal hygiene and overall reassurance, comfort and safety
  • promoting positive mental/physical/nutritional health with patients
  • checking and ordering supplies

Are there opportunities to progress?

There are opportunities to work as an Assistant Practitioner and to work towards an appropriate foundation degree. 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.

The formal route to Nursing or Midwifery is an option for HCAs to consider. Or, with further study, the Allied Healthcare professions could be worth exploring as there are so many fields to work in ranging from Art Therapy, Dietician, Radiographer, Speech and Language Therapist and many more. Go to the links below to explore further opportunities.

Learn more about the role of the healthcare assistant

Learn about everyday practices and ideas for the future in the OpenLearn unit Social care: introducing the professional practice

Examine the boundaries of being a Healthcare assistant using a case study approach in the OpenLearn unit The boundaries of care.

The OU’s Careers website provides free information and advice on careers and information on careers in Health and Social Care.

Further information on the role of the healthcare assistant

Talent for Care aims to improving education, training and development opportunities to those working in an NHS support role

The NHS careers website provides information on developing your career as a Healthcare assistant.

Read the job profile from the National Careers Service about a career as a healthcare assistant

Watch YouTube videos about what it’s like to be a healthcare assistant.