Healthcare assistant

Healthcare assistants (HCAs) work in hospital or community settings, such as GP surgeries, under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional.

This page has information on the role of the healthcare assistant, including entry requirements and skills needed. 

Working life

As a healthcare assistant (HCA), you'll work under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional, usually a nurse. Sometimes staff working in HCA roles are known as nursing assistants, nursing auxiliaries or auxiliary nurses.

The work varies depending on where you're based. In a hospital for example, you may be

In a health centres and GP surgery, you may

As well as nurses, HCAs work with doctors, midwives and other healthcare professionals. They have a lot of contact with patients.

"The thing I enjoy most is providing individual patient care. Having a direct influence on a person’s health is very fulfilling and I love watching a person progress and improve from admission to discharge."  Luke Watson, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead 

Read Luke's story

Entry requirements 

There are no set entry requirements to become a healthcare assistant. Employers expect good literacy and numeracy and may ask for GCSEs (or equivalent) in English and maths. They may ask for a healthcare qualification, such as BTEC or NVQ.

Employers expect you to have some experience of healthcare or care work. This could be from paid or voluntary work. There are sometimes apprenticeships in healthcare that can give you experience to apply for HCA posts.

Find out more about volunteering and gaining experience

Skills and personal characteristics needed 

To be a healthcare assistant, you'll need to be

You'll also need

Training and development

Your training as a healthcare assistant will include basic nursing skills and you'll work towards the Care Certificate, developed by Skills for CareSkills for Health and Health Education England and launched in 2015.

Find out more about the Care Certificate

You may also be offered the chance to study for qualifications such as

These could be done through an apprenticeship

Some HCAs join the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) as health practitioner members. The RCN runs training events and conferences so HCAs can update their skills and network with others doing similar work.

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