Healthcare Assistants provide crucial support for patients in hospitals, doctor’s surgeries, healthcare clinics, nursing homes and the community, helping to care for people with medical issues.
This is a challenging but highly rewarding role and could be well suited to you if you love helping others and want to provide medical care and support for others.
What does a healthcare assistant do?
Healthcare assistants (HCA’s) work with nurses, doctors, midwives and other healthcare professionals to provide medical support for patients. The focus of a healthcare assistant is on providing basic medical care (washing, taking patients’ vitals) and supporting patients day to day by making beds and helping patients move around. They act as an essential part of the daily running of a hospital or healthcare facility and are often the first port of call for patients and loved ones who need assistance or support.
The role of a healthcare assistant in the HSE and in private healthcare can include different aspects of medical and personal care, depending on where you work. Hospital healthcare assistants provide support such as basic wound care, monitoring temperatures, pulses and respiratory rates of patients, making beds, ensuring patients’ comfort and serving food and drink to patients.
However, in doctor’s offices or health clinics, healthcare assistant duties often include sterilising equipment, restocking and cleaning consultation rooms, processing lab samples and taking patients’ blood samples. In community settings, the role of a healthcare assistant is to provide day-to-day personal care and support to help people with ongoing conditions to live more independently.
What qualifications are needed to become a healthcare assistant?
The requirements to become a qualified healthcare assistant in Ireland are set out by the Health Service Executive (HSE). In order to work as a qualified healthcare assistant, you will need to study and pass a QQI Level 5 Award or FETAC Level 5 Award.
There are different options in terms of the subject you gain, your QQI awards or FETAC awards, and you can choose which best fits your interests and what you might want to specialise in later. You can study healthcare support, pre-nursing studies, care of the older person, or choose another relevant course, and you will need to complete 8 modules, including on-the-job training and work experience, to qualify as a healthcare assistant.
These major awards will develop key knowledge and skills you need to work in the healthcare sector and will allow you to apply for healthcare assistant jobs in Ireland. Other entry requirements needed in order to qualify as an HCA include three months’ recent work experience, eligibility to work in Ireland, a full vaccination record and fluent written and spoken English skills.
If you are looking for additional qualifications to boost your CV, or perhaps you want to explore a new career and don’t have relevant qualifications yet, then studying an online course is ideal. Studying an Aged Care course is a great way to boost your resume and to help you develop the skills you need to be a healthcare assistant, whether you have previous experience or not.
The majority of the people you are likely to be working with are going to be older people, especially if working in community health, orthopaedic or elderly care wards, and therefore, knowing how to provide patient care for older people properly is essential. You can study in your own time, part-time or full-time, so learners who are working or have other commitments can study flexibly. An accredited aged care course demonstrates your abilities and knowledge, which will be key to healthcare assistant roles.
What skills are needed to become a healthcare assistant?
Healthcare assistants play a vital role in providing care for those in need, and therefore, with a great degree of responsibility comes a diverse skill set. There are practical and personal skills needed in this job to ensure that you can provide the support needed. Some of the skills you will need are:
Does becoming a healthcare assistant need any work experience?
Healthcare assistants in Ireland need a minimum of 3 months’ recent work experience in order to qualify as a healthcare assistant. This should be in a relevant role where you are providing care and support to others, such as in a nursing home, homecare support, in a hospital or in a health clinic. Experience as a care assistant, carer or support worker is ideal if you are looking to become a healthcare assistant.
If you are struggling to find relevant paid work, then exploring voluntary roles or charity work is a good way of gaining experience and helping a good cause. Befriending schemes, care facilities and support programmes exist all over Ireland for older people, adults with physical and intellectual disabilities, people with special needs and vulnerable children.
Gaining as much experience as you can working with people and providing support to vulnerable people is a great way to increase your job prospects and help you on your way to becoming a healthcare worker.
Career prospects for a healthcare assistant In Ireland
Healthcare assistants have excellent career prospects, as their skills are in high demand in medical and healthcare settings. Therefore, you can work as a healthcare assistant in a variety of environments, including community care organisations, public and private hospitals, healthcare centres and doctor’s surgeries.
Many healthcare assistants also go on to train in other medical roles such as nursing, midwifery and social work. Becoming a registered nurse is a popular career path for healthcare assistants to take, and many healthcare facilities regularly work with healthcare assistants to get them the appropriate training and work experience for nursing.
There is also the possibility of specialising in certain areas and taking on additional qualifications in areas such as radiography, physiotherapy, chiropody or occupational therapy.
Becoming a healthcare assistant is a fantastic career choice, giving you the opportunity to help people in need every day whilst having a secure job and several career prospects. Healthcare assistants are in high demand in Ireland right now, so it’s the perfect time to get a qualification and begin your journey to becoming a healthcare assistant.
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