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The job role of a Health Care Assistant or Health Care Support worker as they are now known is a role like no other. Challenging to many and rewarding to all, working as part of a Hospital team can really open your eyes to the world around you. As a HCA your duties are to provide support and assistance to Health care professionals with nursing, domestic and general duties. Working as part of a varied and multidisciplinary team, the HCA position is a vital one. In many cases you will provide the first line of care for hospitalised patients. This helps senior nurses and team members to perform more specialised tasks. This job is a brilliant introduction to the healthcare industry. Nursing students and even Medical students work as HCA’s in order to increase their patient care and nursing skills.
Well that’s the job description but I don’t think it quiet does justice to this vastly diverse role. I was a male Bank/locum HCA working within a busy local hospital for two years. The nurse bank is a sort of internal agency that is used to allocate staff to wards and areas with sickness or workload problems. The role and duties of a bank HCA are identical to that of a permanent area Coming from a retail/supervisory background, I never expected I would dabble in the health care industry. However attracted by the idea of ‘pick your own hours’ and reasonable pay, I gave our hospitals nurse bank a try. HCA’s. I was surprised to find that the position of HCA requires no formal qualifications and no nursing experience what so ever. All I needed to join was medical clearance, and a Police check or CRB check (criminal record Beuro) which was easily obtained from my GP.
In order to train me to NHS standards in care and protocol, I was required to attend a weeklong, all expenses paid course/induction. During this course I learned a great deal about hospital care procedures and clinical methods. Basic Life support, Basic food hygiene and manual handling courses were just a few of the excellent training packages provided by my hospital. I later discovered that to train each HCA it costs the NHS around £5,000 a commitment that few employers will make at such an early stage.
After I had completed my first week of core training I was given two supernumerary shifts in order to observe and learn from other more experienced NHS staff. Each trial shift was based on a different hospital directorate. My first shift was on a medical ward that dealt with medically sick elderly patients, it was on this first placement that I learnt many of my basic skills. It was here I also learnt just how much physical patient handling this job required. I felt uneasy invading patient’s personal space even though they obviously needed help, but the ward staff were very patient and helpful. My second Placement was on a busy surgical ward that dealt with vascular and general surgery. It was here that I learnt my patient observation skills such as blood pressure and heart rate monitoring. As a full time health care, your first supernumerary shifts will be carried out on the ward that employs you.
My first year in the hospital was a real learning curve full of trials and tribulations. Caring for all manner of patients on a 1 to 1 basis, I came face to face on a daily basis with sickness, pain and death. Sometimes depressing and sometimes uplifting, this job unlike others can take a heavy emotional toll. Caring for patients day to day needs such as bathing and toileting can also require a strong stomach as HCA are the first line of basic patient care. Due to the large amount of patient handling, nursing staff more than often develop bad backs. Although manual handling courses are provided, the biggest cause of sickness and early retirement in nursing is still back problems.
In general, Hospitals provide 24-hour care and thus require 24-hour carers. Our hospital split its day into three basic shifts comprising of morning’s afternoons and nights. Several other shifts do exist but they are unique to their specialist area. Night shifts in a hospital as a HCA can be quiet hard as staffing levels are a lot lower than in the day.
Each shift has its own routine for HCA’s and members of the hospital team. The morning shift or Early as it is known revolved primarily around preparing patients for the day ahead. Making beds and washing patients, the morning shift is perhaps the physically challenging of the day involving the most patient handling. The afternoon or late shift tended to be dominated with general patient care and observation. This allows other members of the team such as Nurses, Physiotherapist and Doctors to carry out essential daily tasks and procedures. A HCA’s primary duties during the night shift are to settle the patients down and make them as comfortable as possible. Carrying out observation throughout the night and helping patients get a much-needed rest, this shift can be as taxing as any other.
Perhaps the backbone of any hospital maybe even the NHS, there is a vast amount of work available for HCA’s. Able to work in practically any aspect of healthcare from ambulances to A and E or ward environments, HCA’s have a huge Varity of work areas to pick from. Clinics, nursing homes, call centres and of course hospitals all have a great need for HCA’s.
The NHS is a great employer and offers all manner of training and advancement packages including nurse training secondment and NVQ qualifications. Although you may start as a HCA there is a huge opportunity for advancement. HCA’s can even advance in their own field via NVQ qualifications that enhance both their pay scale and duties. Most NHS trusts have some form of learning scheme or funding to enhance there staffs training and prospects.
So what do you need to do this job ? well in the form of qualifications nothing. However you will need a strong stomach and a good outlook on life. It is not uncommon in a hospital environment for patients to pass away and so there is a definite emotional strain attached to this job. Patients are people and people can be difficult, you will be expected to perform your role with respect and care for all patients. A good sense of humour and the ability to listen are also great tools for this job. An ability to cope with stress and stressed people is als a big plus in this job, due to the critical nature of the work environment. This job is open to every one of any age, sex or race. I have worked with a huge diversity of people from 60-year-old ladies to 18-year-old men all of whom are equally suitable for the job. As diverse as the people that do the job is the backgrounds they come from. I knew one man whose last job was based in chemical engineering and another who used to be a builder. In a way, being a HCA is a bit like getting a clean start, with advancement prospects for people of any age.
NHS pay is of course legendary for being rather measly, however for HCA’s this is not the case. At a basic level you can expect to receive around £5.60 and hour which rises to a prestigious £7.60 an hour if you attain your NVQ’s. This is defiantly a good wage for a job that requires no formal qualifications and has so much to offer.
This job is defiantly worth a try and will teach you a lot more than you think. After two years however this job began to bore me a little and I found I was beginning to become rather disillusioned. I do believe that some people just arrant built for the health care industry, but I count myself lucky for being able to learn from the experience’s this job offers. More and more men are becoming nursing staff. Aside from the occasional snidely comment from my family and friends I found I was accepted into this industry without any prejudice. If your looking for a change this job is a brilliant place to start with great prospects and a real sense of achievement at the end of every shift. There is a vast amount to this job that can’t really be explained. I have tried my best in this review and I comfort myself that the official job description is only 4 lines long. I hope this review has provided some insight into a career option that is rather misunderstood and perhaps is given less credit than it deserves.