Healthcare assistant

A healthcare assistant


Healthcare assistants work together in a team with registered nurses within the occupational fields of nursing, care and maintenance of people of all age-groups in all diverse acute care settings as well as in primary care environments. Their role is to make sure the patient experience is as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

The duties of a healthcare assistant include, but are not limited to:

  • Helping patients bathe, dress, groom themselves, or use the bathroom
  • Providing emotional support to patients by listening to them talk about their problems
  • Collecting and recording patient data such as weight, height, blood pressure, and temperature
  • Preparing operating rooms for surgical procedures by setting up equipment and instruments
  • Preparing medical instruments for use during surgery by sterilizing them
  • Helping patients with activities of daily living such as bathing, grooming, feeding, dressing, and hygiene care
  • Preparing patients for examinations by cleaning examination rooms, setting up equipment, and arranging supplies
  • Collecting and preparing specimens for lab testing
  • Following infection control procedures to reduce the risk of spreading germs to other patients

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to healthcare assistant:

resident care assistant
assistant healthcarer
resident healthcare assistant
elderly care assistant
primary healthcare assistant
maternity care assistant
health care assistant
patient care assistant

Working conditions

Healthcare assistants work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, physician offices, and long-term care facilities. They typically work full time, and their hours may include evenings and weekends. Some healthcare assistants may be on call, which means they are available to work at any time.

Many healthcare assistants work in teams with other healthcare professionals, such as nurses, physicians, and social workers. They may also work with patients and their families to provide support and information. The work environment can be fast paced and sometimes stressful, but it is also rewarding as healthcare assistants help people in need.

Minimum qualifications

Most healthcare assistants are required to have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Some employers prefer candidates who have completed a health care assistant program. These programs typically take about a year to complete and include both classroom and practical experience.

Many healthcare assistants learn the specific skills and techniques they need for their role while on the job. Training often includes shadowing a current healthcare assistant or performing duties under supervision until they are comfortable enough to work on their own. Training often includes a period of time working in another role, such as a receptionist, to gain experience before becoming a healthcare assistant.

Some employers may require healthcare assistants to pass an industry-specific certification to show their general understanding of the field.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Healthcare assistant is a Skill level 2 occupation.

Healthcare assistant career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to healthcare assistant.

nurse assistant
front line medical receptionist
hospital porter
patient transport services driver
sterile services technician

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of healthcare assistant. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of healthcare assistant with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

physiotherapy assistant
dental hygienist
dental technician
pharmacy technician
dental chairside assistant

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of healthcare assistant.

  • Respond to changing situations in health care: Cope with pressure and respond appropriately and in time to unexpected and rapidly changing situations in healthcare.
  • Educate on the prevention of illness: Offer evidence-based advice on how to avoid ill health, educate and advise individuals and their carers on how to prevent ill health and/or be able to advise how to improve their environment and health conditions. Provide advice on the identification of risks leading to ill health and help to increase the patients’ resilience by targeting prevention and early intervention strategies.
  • Inform policy makers on health-related challenges: Provide useful information related to health care professions to ensure policy decisions are made in the benefit of communities.
  • Contribute to continuity of health care: Contribute to the delivery of coordinated and continuous healthcare.
  • Use e-health and mobile health technologies: Use mobile health technologies and e-health (online applications and services) in order to enhance the provided healthcare.
  • Empathise with the healthcare user: Understand the background of clients` and patients’ symptoms, difficulties and behaviour. Be empathetic about their issues; showing respect and reinforcing their autonomy, self-esteem and independence. Demonstrate a concern for their welfare and handle according to the personal boundaries, sensitivities, cultural differences and preferences of the client and patient in mind.
  • Provide basic support to patients: Support patients and citizens with activities of daily living, such as hygiene, comfort, mobilisation and feeding needs.
  • Identify abnormalities: Identify what is normal and abnormal concerning the well-being of patients, through experience and instruction, reporting to the nurses what is abnormal.
  • Manage healthcare users’ data: Keep accurate client records which also satisfy legal and professional standards and ethical obligations in order to facilitate client management, ensuring that all clients’ data (including verbal, written and electronic) are treated confidentially.
  • Deal with emergency care situations: Assess the signs and be well-prepared for a situation that poses an immediate threat to a person’s health, security, property or environment.
  • Provide health education: Provide evidence based strategies to promote healthy living, disease prevention and management.
  • Support nurses: Support nurses with the preparation and delivery of diagnostic and treatment interventions.
  • Work under supervision in care: Work under delegation and supervision of nurses to support nursing care and administration.
  • Communicate with nursing staff: Communicate with nurses and other health professionals ensuring the delivery of quality and safe patient care.
  • Follow clinical guidelines: Follow agreed protocols and guidelines in support of healthcare practice which are provided by healthcare institutions, professional associations, or authorities and also scientific organisations.
  • Advise on healthcare users’ informed consent: Ensure patients/clients are fully informed about the risks and benefits of proposed treatments so they can give informed consent, engaging patients/clients in the process of their care and treatment.
  • Comply with quality standards related to healthcare practice: Apply quality standards related to risk management, safety procedures, patients feedback, screening and medical devices in daily practice, as they are recognized by the national professional associations and authorities.
  • Comply with legislation related to health care: Comply with the regional and national legislation that is relevant to one`s work and apply it in practice.
  • Listen actively: Give attention to what other people say, patiently understand points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times; able to listen carefully the needs of customers, clients, passengers, service users or others, and provide solutions accordingly.
  • Apply health sciences: Apply a broad range of bio-medical, psycho-social, organisational, educational, and societal aspects of health, disease, and healthcare to improve healthcare services and to improve quality of life.
  • Adhere to organisational guidelines: Adhere to organisational or department specific standards and guidelines. Understand the motives of the organisation and the common agreements and act accordingly.
  • Convey medical routine information: Convey routine information to patients, relatives, and members of the public.
  • Work in a multicultural environment in health care: Interact, relate and communicate with individuals from a variety of different cultures, when working in a healthcare environment.
  • Work with nursing staff: Work together with nurses and other health professionals in supporting the delivery of basic patient care.
  • Promote inclusion: Promote inclusion in health care and social services and respect diversity of beliefs, culture, values and preferences, keeping in mind the importance of equality and diversity issues.
  • Interact with healthcare users: Communicate with clients and their carer’s, with the patient’s permission, to keep them informed about the clients’ and patients’ progress and safeguarding confidentiality.
  • Ensure safety of healthcare users: Make sure that healthcare users are being treated professionally, effectively and safe from harm, adapting techniques and procedures according to the person’s needs, abilities or the prevailing conditions.
  • Have computer literacy: Utilise computers, IT equipment and modern day technology in an efficient way.
  • Monitor basic patients signs: Monitor basic patient vital signs and other signs, taking actions as indicated by the nurse and report to her/him as appropriate.
  • Apply organisational techniques: Employ a set of organisational techniques and procedures which facilitate the achievement of the goals set. Use these resources efficiently and sustainably, and show flexibility when required.
  • Develop a collaborative therapeutic relationship: Develop a mutually collaborative therapeutic relationship during treatment, fostering and gaining healthcare users’ trust and cooperation.
  • Work in multidisciplinary health teams: Participate in the delivery of multidisciplinary health care, and understand the rules and competences of other healthcare related professions.
  • Accept own accountability: Accept accountability for one`s own professional activities and recognise the limits of one`s own scope of practice and competencies.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of healthcare assistant. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Geriatrics: Geriatrics is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Disability care: The specific methods and practices used in providing care to people with physical, intellectual and learning disabilities.
  • Older adults’ needs: The physical, mental, and social needs of frail, older adults.
  • Disability types: The nature and types of disabilities affecting the human beings such as physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional or developmental and the specific needs and access requirements of disabled people.
  • Sterilization techniques: The methods and techniques used to destroy or remove microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria that can contaminate medical instruments or any type of material in a health care setting.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of healthcare assistant. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

ISCO group and title

5321 – Health care assistants

  1. Healthcare assistant – ESCO
  2. Healthcare assistant | Health Careers – NHS
  3. Medical Assistant : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  4. Health Care Assistant Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
  5. Featured image: By Yowepe – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Last updated on November 3, 2022

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