healthcare assistant careers

Becoming a Heathcare Assistant (HCA) is one of many career paths in the medical industry. This article aims to delve into the pros and cons, or highlights and potential downsides of working as a Healthcare Assistant in the UK.

The Pros and Cons of Becoming a Healthcare Assistant

Healthcare Assistant are the people responsible for making patients comfortable: helping them get to and from the bathroom, bathing them and bringing them meals, among other things. Becoming a Healthcare Assistant is a great way to get started in the medical field by going through a relatively short and inexpensive post-secondary program.

Still, becoming a HCA is a major career decision and you should carefully weigh the pros and cons before you decide to go for it.

Here are a few things you should think about before training to become a HCA:

The Advantages

If you want to work in the medical field, there are a few advantages to becoming a HCA:

  1. Opportunities for career advancement – If you’re willing to further your medical education, becoming a HCA allows you many opportunities for advancement. Working as a HCA gives you more real medical experience than many other medical students, as well as connections within the industry.
  2. Consistent work hours – Most HCAs can count on never working less than 40 hours a week. Since hospitals and hospices require HCAs on hand 24 hours a day, they can also sometimes choose which shifts they work.
  3. Job gratification – You can leave work at the end of the day knowing you legitimately helped people, and many of them will express their gratitude as well.
  4. Booming job market —  Populations around the world are aging and there is more need for individuals with medical qualifications to fill job vacancies within an aging population.
  5. Work abroad – there may be opportunities for you to take job placements overseas and potentially use your skills acquired within the UK for temporary of even permanent residency overseas.

Overseas Career Opportunities:

The comparable qualification to a HCA in the US is known as a Certified Medical Assistant, or CNA. The job market for CNAs is only expected to grow considerably over the next ten years and potentially even beyond then. Each US state has differing requirements for healthcare assisting qualifications, so you’ll need to investigate further. Here is a US guide for CNA careers for reference.

Australia, a country with an aging population, has a visa program known as the General Skilled Migration Program, now know as SkillSelect whereby foreign individuals holding qualifications suitable for career sectors with projected job vacancy rates in the years ahead may be eligible for permanent residency through their ability to fill a position in the job market.

At the time of writing (August 2015), healthcare assisting is not currently on the list of occupations required, however this may change in the future. You may be able to gain access to Australia via a working visa for two years.

Clearly, getting a qualification of any sort in the healthcare industry can open up many doors for opportunity.

What Are The Disadvantages?

Of course, no job is perfect, and there are a few different reasons why becoming a HCA might not be your best option:

  1. Physical strain – Many of the HCA’s duties, such as changing and bathing patients, are physically demanding. You’ll need to look after your health as HCAs have a high risk of injury compared to many other entry-level jobs.
  2. Low-moderate pay – Despite the difficult physical nature of their work, a HCA’s starting pay is only a few dollars above minimum wage per hour, quite low compared to other professions in the medical field, though arguably quite sufficient given the relatively short training period to acquire qualifications.
  3. Abusive patients – Most patients are grateful for the work you do, but some will be rude or even downright mean. This can be tough to deal with on a constant basis and is something that tends to just be “part of the job” when working in the medical field.
  4. Inability to advance without education – If you’re not interested in pursuing further medical education you’ll have great difficulty getting any kind of promotion. Are you a go getter that is happy to study part-time to advance in your career?

If you think the medical field is for you but you want to be sure before you go through several years of medical school, becoming a HCA is a great way to figure out whether or not the field is for you. It can also be an extremely rewarding way to earn a living for the right kind of person.