Hey! I am very aware that I have been inactive on my blog, I’m sorry! So far in my gap year, I have worked as a Sales Assistant in a shop but I have been applying for more medical-related roles to get some experience before starting medical school.
I applied to be a healthcare assistant in my local NHS Trust in January and after an assessment and two interviews, I was successful! I completed all of my induction/training sessions in the first week of April, so this week I had my first ever shifts working on the wards! In this blog, I hope to share the reasons why I became a healthcare assistant, how I hope it will benefit my medical degree and time as a doctor. This may help those aspiring medics who are thinking of becoming a healthcare assistant for clinical experience before med school like myself, or if you’re just interested!
Who are Healthcare Assistants (HCAs)?
To be completely honest, before applying and researching the role, I was unsure of what HCAs actually do. Depending on what medical setting they’re working in, HCAs have a range of roles:
- wash and dress patients
- help patients go to toilet
- make beds
- serve meals and help feed patients
- monitor patients observations (e.g. temperatures, weight, blood sugars)
- ensure supplies of bed linen, gowns etc. are maintained
HCAs based in GP surgeries or outpatient centres may also do health checks and take/process lab samples.
Why I Became a HCA
HCAs, although being the least qualified out of the entire nursing team, have a crucial role in patient care. They work closely with the other healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, physiotherapists), and have the most patient interaction. They ensure the patients are kept clean, well fed, and comfortable.
I believe having experience as HCA in a hospital before starting my medical degree would give me the chance to experience life from the nursing side of patient care before venturing into doctor-territory. I think this would give me greater appreciation for the other areas of the multi-disciplinary team and a better insight into how all the pieces of patient care fit together.
With the vast amount of patient interaction HCAs have, it would also give me time to get to know patients and better see the patient as an actual person, rather than a medical textbook example that many medical students fall into the habit of viewing them as. Though I have few months left in my gap year, I am certain my short experience as a HCA will make me a better doctor in the long-run and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to become one.
Using My Experience During Medical School
Many medical students become what’s known as ‘bank’ HCAs during their time at university, which is essentially a zero-hour contract and you can select which shifts you’d like to work. This is a great way to have a part-time job which is flexible enough to mould around your studies but also related to your degree. I guess with my experience as a HCA from my gap year, applying for these roles would be easier and no doubt less daunting when I start. As I learn more about clinical medicine, it will also give me experience with certain conditions and the doctors may even show me things knowing I’m a medical student too. Bank shifts also pay better than contracted work, and I’ve heard you get very well paid if you work on ‘unsociable’ days like Sundays and Bank Holidays (~£17/hr) 😉
The ward I am working on is an infectious disease ward, which is comprised of 25 side rooms (it has no bays like traditional wards, only side rooms so as to isolate infectious patients). When I discovered this I admit I was a little apprehensive.
Before my induction I was encouraged to visit the ward and meet some of my future colleagues. The ward manager told me that currently the vast majority of the patients on the ward are COVID positive (mid March 2021, during the third wave), so they are essentially a COVID ward. She also said that with the additional fact that there are only side rooms, nursing on this ward is particularly difficult. I was surprised they’d put me, with no experience whatsoever as a care assistant, on a ward as tough as this… I am definitely being thrown in the deep end!
In my next blog post I’ll talk about my experience after my first week working on the ward!
The Conscious Medic