NHS Scotland Guide to Careers as a Health Care Assistant

Health Care Assistants may also be known as Clinical Support Workers, Therapy Assistants, and Nursing Auxiliaries. Health Care Assistants carry out the routine care tasks required to look after patients who are staying in hospital or at home. They work under the supervision of qualified nursing staff. Health Care Assistants may have a variety of duties, depending on the type of environment they work in and the people they look after.

Many patients cannot get about very easily. It is the Health Care Assistant’s job to help them to the bathroom and assist them with their personal hygiene. If they cannot get out of bed at all, the Health Care Assistant gives them a bed bath, dresses and undresses them, and looks after other intimate care needs. Manual handling aids and equipment are used to help with lifting.

If patients are confined to bed for a long time, the Health Care Assistant helps to turn them at regular intervals to prevent them from getting pressure sores. Some patients may also need help in feeding themselves.

Hospital-based Health Care Assistants make sure that the ward is kept clean and tidy   they change the linen on the beds and either put it down a chute or bag it up to be collected by the laundry staff. They must dispose of used dressings (and anything else that may be a health risk) into special containers that are taken away to be burned.

The more technical side of the job involves taking patients’ temperature and pulse rate, performing urine tests and applying simple dressings. Some of the work that Health Care Assistants do must be accurately recorded on special charts, for example temperature and fluid intake.

Health Care Assistants may also provide emotional support, for example, by reassuring patients before an operation or explaining hospital procedures.

Entry Requirements
There are no national minimum qualifications, although you will be expected to have a good general education and/or work experience. You need to be able to communicate with and get on well with people. You should be patient, caring, tactful and prepared to carry out routine and messy tasks.

Some elements of the work can be distressing, but also rewarding. You need to be able to work as part of a team and to use your initiative.

Training is carried out on the job. You may have the opportunity to work towards a Scottish Vocational Qualification. Some parts of the country offer customised Foundation course training with a guaranteed job interview at the end of the eight-week training.

Career Prospects
There is a shortage of Health Care Assistants therefore employment prospects are good. There is a robust career pathway that you can access enabling you to develop your skills and potentially become a Registered Nurse.