A role as a health care assistant can be rewarding in many ways. On a personal level, it allows you to make a difference whilst pursuing a meaningful and financially beneficial career.
On a professional level, you have the freedom to expand on your experience and qualifications and move into different sectors of the care industry, enabling you to work in different environments with different groups of people.
If you’re considering a career as a health care assistant take a look through our handy guide below to determine whether this role is right for you, and if so, how you can train for and secure your ideal position.
Healthcare assistant jobs can also be known as nursing auxiliaries, auxiliary nurses or nursing assistants. The role of a health care assistant is varied and covers a lot of different responsibilities, which differ depending on the environment you are working in.
It combines the traditional tasks of a care assistant (washing, dressing and toileting) with a medical element (including monitoring blood pressure, and sterilising equipment).
Mostly you will be working under the guidance of a more qualified health care professional, usually a doctor or nurse. You may also be working with other health care professionals however, including midwives and specialists. There are several choices available when looking for work as a health care assistant, and these include:
When it comes to health care assistant jobs, working hours, pay and responsibilities do vary depending on who you are working for (in the private or public sector), your qualifications and whether you are part-time or full-time.
The term ‘care assistant’ is broad and covers a wide range of roles both in nursing and care homes and in the community. Health care assistant jobs mean you work specifically in a medical care capacity, delivering associated care assistance whilst also being able to carry out more important tasks.
A health care assistant can be present in nursing and care homes, but generally, they are found in medical establishments like surgeries and hospitals.
There are a few things you’ll need to consider when embarking on a career and looking at health care assistant jobs. These include:
The next few sections of this article will shed some more light on the topics above and will hopefully help you to answer these important questions.
As you can see above, work as a healthcare assistant can be rewarding, and can also be incredibly challenging. It involves working closely with healthcare professionals, sometimes in difficult circumstances such as death and serious illness.
Hours can vary, but usually positions are full-time. This involves working early mornings, evenings, weekends and long days, so it’s worth considering whether you have any family commitments which could prevent you from being able to participate in these shift patterns.
Across a range of health care assistant jobs, you will come into contact with a wide variety of people. Mostly you will be dealing with those receiving care, but you may also be expected to communicate with their relatives, especially if they are elderly, not of sound mind or under sixteen.
The type of person you care for will mainly depend on where you will be working in your role, and in what capacity. For instance, in hospital, you will come into contact with people of all ages with a wide range of health complaints – especially if you are working across several wards.
In a GP practice you’ll also see lots of different patients with various health requirements. Of course, if you are based in a nursing home you will mostly work with older people, and in hospices with those who are coming to the end of their life.
The type of person you most wish to work with may influence your decision when finding work, but it’s important to remember that in this role you will be expected to communicate and care for all people with a variety of care needs, whatever your preference may be.
There are a number of very good progression opportunities open to you once you have trained as a health care assistant. With experience and more training, senior health care assistant jobs can open up to you, which allows you to train and apply for a number of other more advanced roles, including midwifery, occupational therapy and podiatry.
You could also go on to complete a full nursing qualification if you wished. For this reason a qualification as a health care assistant is always seen as a good grounding with which you can enter into a higher-level career either in the private sector or NHS, as it gives you the opportunity to train whilst gaining invaluable experience and ‘learning on the job’.
You’ll also deal with a wide variety of people with lots of different types of care needs and health complaints, experience which can be very useful when progressing into nursing or other senior roles.
Salaries and pay packages differ depending on whether you are working within the private or public sector –but across the board the average hourly rate for health care assistant jobs is around £7 – which works out at about £15,000 – £18,000 annually based on a full-time contract.
You may be paid extra on top of your basic salary for working unsociable hours such as weekends, night shifts and bank holidays. Generally, your level of experience does not affect your salary, so if you do wish to progress and earn more, you will need to complete further qualifications and explore higher level avenues as detailed above.
Pay, of course, tends to be higher in these professions, with a midwife earning around £21,000 initially on the NHS (rising to up to £34,000 with experience), and a Podiatrist earning between £21,000 and £29,000 per year. In the private sector or private practice expected earnings can be a lot higher.
There are several pathways to choose when thinking about qualifying and looking at health care assistant jobs. One of the most popular routes is through standard further education college or the Royal College of Nursing who provide specialist courses and qualifications.
Apprenticeships (‘on the job’ learning) are also available – sometimes through the NHS. This enables you to gain invaluable experience and complete your qualifications whilst being paid a low-level salary to cover your expenses.
There are no set qualifications or entry level requirements needed to enrol on these courses, but candidates are expected to have a good level of education in Maths and English.
Additionally, those who complete a BTEC in Health and Social Care or equivalent NVQ may wish to go on to do a course of this kind – and these more specialised qualifications may be useful once you enter the jobs market and look for employment.
Experience (such as volunteering) and general indications that you are able to work in a caring capacity are favoured –so if you are new to care, it’s worth investigating some avenues through which you could gain some extra experience to add to your CV and give you some basic knowledge before you start any training.
The NHS runs a dedicated volunteering service, which will give you the best opportunity to gain experience relevant to the role you are training or applying for. Organisations such as Do It and Volunteering England also allow you to choose roles which may benefit your progression to becoming a health care assistant.
Although formal training is needed to become a health care assistant, personal qualities are also key. You will be expected to be a caring, attentive individual who is willing to interact with patients and undertake the responsibilities expected – including personal care.
Additionally communications skills are incredibly important – you must be able to listen but also be able to communicate well with colleagues and patients alike. You must be able to handle responsibility and remain calm in the event of an emergency or other difficult situations, should they arise.
Once you are qualified and have some experience, you can then start looking for health care assistant jobs. To narrow down your choices to the roles you specifically wish to pursue and increase your chances of success, it’s best to go to a specialised agency or job site (such as the UK Care Jobs Board) so that you can target the positions you are really looking for without sifting through irrelevant results.
You can often filter your search based on location, salary and type of job offered – meaning you’re much more likely to find vacancies which are suited to you. You can also apply online now for many roles – which cuts down the time you would previously have spent filling out lengthy application forms by hand. These sites can also sometimes offer career advice and support, including CV tips and volunteering opportunities.
If you do go to an agency, you should get the opportunity to meet someone who can discuss your career with you and what you wish to get out of any prospective job you apply for.
They can then work with you to improve your CV and in turn better your chances of securing a role which is ideal for you. You may need to be prepared to go into a role you hadn’t considered initially whilst you wait for an opportunity to work in the sector you prefer.
Here is a useful video from Guardian Jobs which provides some good tips on writing a cv.
More information on training and qualifications can be found on the NHS and Royal College of Nursing websites – and this includes the types of courses available, where they are held and the associated costs involved.
For an insight into working as a health care assistant you can take a look at the NHS website, the Prospects careers site or again at the Royal College of Nursing’s website, as these each have helpful articles explaining what is expected of health care assistants and roles and responsibilities involved.
You could also enquire on social media or ask friends and family if they know anybody who is currently working in the industry who wouldn’t mind you asking them for advice and guidance – as this is often the best way to work out whether a career in care is for you, and similarly whether working as a health care assistant is going to be appropriate or enjoyable for you in line with your current situation and future goals.
For more information on working in care and finding health care assistant jobs, please take a look through our other helpful articles here on the UK Care Guide website. We also have information on other care related jobs, which you can find on this site.