How To Become A Health Care Assistant

Health care worker and elderly woman in wheelchair needs help

I’ve worked at care homes in Sheffield for many years now and I absolutely love what I do. When I leave work every day I know for sure that I’ve made a real difference to somebody’s life and that’s a feeling that can’t be bought. My job is so rewarding, I honestly can’t imagine ever doing anything else. But unfortunately, there just aren’t enough people in the field right now that feel the way I do. There’s a national shortage of care workers and that’s having an impact on the level of care that can be delivered. I know for many people, being a care assistant is just something they really don’t know anything about, so I’ve put together this little overview to see if I could encourage some of you to take that step and make that difference.

What does a Health Care Assistant do?

Health care assistants, also known as nursing auxiliaries or nursing assistants, assist other health care professionals with the everyday duties surrounding patient care. There are a number of different settings you could work in supporting just about anybody that needs assistance. Patients might be elderly, suffering long-term sickness, recovering from surgery, have mental health problems, physical disabilities or learning difficulties. That’s one of the things I really love about the job – it’s so varied – and there are so many opportunities to learn so much.

There are so many things involved in what we do, but some typical examples to give you an idea are:

* Helping to keep patients clean

* Helping patients to eat and dress

* Toileting

* Making beds

*Measuring and recording temperature, pulse and respiration

* Taking and testing urine samples

* Chatting with patients

* Supporting patients with mobility problems.

Health care assistants can work in hospitals, residential care homes and in the community. We basically assist patients with any task they cannot manage on their own, whilst encouraging them to be as independent as they can.

In hospitals you might be required to escort patients between hospital departments, assist with examinations or treatments, keep the ward tidy, check and sort supplies and help with paperwork.

Health care assistants working with patients who have mental health or learning disabilities, might generate activities to increase their self-confidence. This could involve shopping trips or outings to leisure facilities.

What’s the Working Environment Like Working as a Health Care Assistant?

We usually work 37.5 hours a week, including nights, bank holidays and weekends on a shift or rota system. It’s often possible to have flexible or part-time hours, which is another huge benefit to the job. I’m able to fit my working life nicely around my family time and commitments, which is really important to me.

Health care assistants who work in the community might work alone or with another health care assistant or registered nurse. You will probably need to be able to drive and might spend a lot of time travelling, but it is so rewarding to be able to support people to remain in their own homes.

What does it take to become a Health Care Assistant?

To be a health care assistant, you should be friendly and outgoing, able to relate to people from a wide variety of backgrounds, be tactful and sensitive, particularly when helping patients with personal care . . . and it helps if you are not embarrassed or squeamish about personal or unpleasant tasks! You need to be able to treat patients with respect. It can be a physically demanding job so you ought to be fit. You’ll need to be gentle, as many patients will be frail. You must be able to work on your own initiative and also as part of a team. You should be reliable and patient with a sense of humour.

Health Care Assistant Career Opportunities

Health care assistants work within the NHS and private hospitals, local authority and private residential or nursing homes, in hospices, with private agencies, and in the community. There is an increasing need for health care assistants to look after people at home. So basically . . . the opportunities are everywhere, you just have to make the move!

Some health care assistants go on to pursue a career in nursing. If you’re considering a nursing career, then working as a health care assistant in the mean time will give you fantastic on the job experience.

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