The role and responsibilities of a healthcare assistant

Healthcare assistants – who are also known as HCAs – are the first line of support for patients and their families, providing crucial services in many different settings, including hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, health centres and the community. 

The position can be a wonderful way to make a real difference to the lives of patients. If you are considering other training qualifications, the healthcare assistant role also allows you to gain real insight into the day-to-day lives of nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals. 

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What is a healthcare assistant?

A healthcare assistant works in healthcare and community settings, and in most circumstances under the direct supervision of qualified medical professionals, such as doctors, nurses, surgeons and midwives. Duties typically performed by healthcare assistants include supporting patients with personal care, communicating with patients, monitoring and taking observations and assisting patients with their daily activities.  

HCAs can also be trained to perform medical interventions, such as taking blood samples or giving vaccinations. So, while an HCA is a caring role with hands-on patient contact, it also gives you the opportunity to take on a wide variety of tasks and gain invaluable medical experience to further your career. 

What does a healthcare assistant do?

Healthcare assistants provide extensive support to nurses, midwives and other medical professionals. Within the role, you perform a range of crucial duties, from helping patients with basic tasks to ensuring rooms and medical facilities are kept clean, tidy and well-stocked.  

Because the role of healthcare assistant doesn’t require medical qualifications, it’s great for those who want to work in the caring professions but who might not want to undertake professional training. 

Your time spent working as a healthcare assistant can be an ideal stepping stone if you are considering different careers in the healthcare industry as there are often opportunities for training and advancement. Gaining first-hand experience working with patients will also always look great on your CV if you’re thinking of applying for a medical qualification, such as to become a nurse or midwife. 

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At Pulse, we regularly have healthcare assistant jobs available. Register with us to access our latest roles and a member of our team will also be in touch to discuss your work preferences and career goals, so that we can find you the perfect job.

Main duties and responsibilities of a healthcare assistant in different settings

In some cases, the roles of healthcare assistants are similar across all settings. You’ll usually be trained to check patients’ vitals – heart rate, temperature, height and weight – and will often be tasked with ensuring necessary supplies are stocked up and that equipment and bedding are kept clean.  


The role of a healthcare assistant in a hospital tends to be very focused on direct patient care, so if you love working with people, this may be the ideal setting for you.  

When patients are ill or recovering from medical procedures, you’ll apply your skills in providing excellent patient care to ensure their dignity and wellbeing are maintained. You’ll provide support with crucial day-to-day tasks that aid patients’ recovery by helping them: 

  • Get dressed 
  • Eat meals 
  • Use the toilet 
  • Bathe 
  • Get in and out of bed 
  • Move around the ward 

Health centres and doctors’ surgeries

In health centres and doctors’ surgeries, you’ll also work with patients, but you’ll usually take on a broader range of tasks, such as: 

  • Taking blood samples 
  • Administering vaccines 
  • Processing lab samples 
  • Recording ECGs 
  • Assisting doctors with minor procedures 

Community settings

While working in the community, healthcare assistants will often carry out the following types of duties: 

  • Supporting people with their daily activities 
  • Helping people with mobility problems or physical disabilities 
  • Helping people with eating and drinking  
  • Supporting with specialised care plans  
  • Promoting people’s mental and physical activity  

Care homes and nursing homes

If you take on a role as a healthcare assistant within a care home or nursing home, you’ll typically support people with everyday tasks while encouraging them to maintain as much independence as possible. You may also be responsible for maintaining and checking over the home’s equipment.  

What qualifications does a healthcare assistant need?  

While there are no set qualifications or entry requirements needed to become a healthcare assistant, employers will often want candidates with good literacy and numeracy skills, so they may look for GCSEs (or equivalent) in English and Maths. Some employers may also require healthcare qualifications, such as BTECs or NVQs.  

At Pulse, our ideal candidates have the following:  

  • Experience working in a relevant healthcare, mental health or care setting  
  • Strong communication skills 
  • An empathetic and sympathetic manner 
  • Dedication, compassion, and reliability 
  • A passion for caring for and supporting patients 

When applying for HCA roles with us, you’ll also need to meet our basic requirements of compliance. This includes passing a DBS check, undertaking identity verification and providing proof of your ability to work legally in the UK. 

If you’d like to find out more about our vacancies at Pulse, browse the latest HCA jobs we have available within a variety of settings and locations across the UK.  

What is the difference between a band 2 and band 3 healthcare assistant?

Typically, a band 2 healthcare assistant will carry out duties related to personal care. You will often be assisting people in their daily lives, ensuring that they feel cared for and supported.   

Band 3 healthcare assistants tend to have more clinical responsibilities. This can include taking blood samples, carrying out pregnancy tests, performing clinical observations and providing simple wound care.  

Following on from working as a band 3 healthcare assistant, you have the opportunity to apply to train as an assistant practitioner or nursing associate. With the relevant qualifications in place, you can also train to become a care professional such as a nurse, dietician or occupational therapist. 

Healthcare assistant opportunities with Pulse

When looking to apply for healthcare assistant jobs, you’ll find the perfect role with Pulse. 

With preferred and sole supplier contracts with many NHS trusts and private organisations, you’ll have exclusive access to a wide variety of temporary and permanent vacancies before they become available anywhere else.  

If you would like to register your interest in working with us, send us your CV so that we can get in touch to discuss your work preferences and help you secure your next HCA role.

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