Healthcare Support Worker vs. Healthcare Assistant – What’s the Difference?


Healthcare support workers (HCSWs) or Healthcare Assistants (HCAs) play an important role in providing patients with compassionate care. They work as part of larger health or social care teams, reporting to qualified healthcare professionals.

HCAs provide and help deliver healthcare under the supervision of qualified healthcare professionals, frequently working autonomously inside the GP practice. So, they are responsible for caring for their patients and are answerable to their employers.

What is a Healthcare support worker?

Healthcare support workers can find in various contexts, from mental health to children’s services. You have an option. As a healthcare support worker, you will work under the supervision of a healthcare practitioner, assisting and supporting care on their path to full health.

There are several options for advancement; you can choose to specialize in a specific area or learn to become a full-support healthcare, such as a nurse or midwife. Depending on the environment and the healthcare support worker jobs you serve, healthcare support workers may have different job titles in various trusts, such as healthcare assistant (or HCA), full support healthcare worker, nursing assistant, or midwifery assistant.

What is a Healthcare Assistant?

A Healthcare Assistant is a nursing team member known as a nurse assistant or auxiliary. Their primary role is to provide direct treatment to patients. You will ensure patients are clean and comfortable in hospital wards and check their vital signs.

So, your healthcare assistant job description might include the following:

  • Assisting patients with their laundry.
  • Taking patients to and from the restroom.
  • Assisting patients with transportation.
  • Ensure that patients are adequately nourished, including assisting them in eating.
  • Monitoring vital signs and ECGs.

Healthcare Assistants can be found in various healthcare services settings, including general practice and emergency departments. These tasks, such as drawing blood, refilling, and cleaning consultation rooms, may vary.

Duties and Responsibilities

As a healthcare assistant or healthcare support worker, you will work as part of a multi-professional team to provide population healthcare. Healthcare services Job duties will differ from practice to practice.

  • What Does a Healthcare Support Worker Do?

Support workers’ job duties vary since they frequently operate as part of a team to care for a wide range of persons who may require assistance. So, a healthcare support worker’s responsibilities may include the following:

  • Assisting patients in getting around.
  • Patient monitoring and basic health assessments
  • Helping patients feel at ease.
  • Patients must be washed and dressed.
  • Providing meals and assisting in feeding patients.

If you work at a health centre or GP surgery, you may:

  • Perform health examinations
  • Collect blood samples
  • Lab samples are processed
  • Sterilize the tools
  • Replenish consultation rooms
  • Carry out health promotion and education activities

Whatever field you choose, being a healthcare support worker is a critical profession at the core of healthcare.

  • What Does a Healthcare Assistant Do?

Healthcare assistants, or HCAs, are essential team members who assist medical personnel and patients in hospital departments and wards. Wards could only function adequately with the support of healthcare aides. Also, the function demands the holder to be the primary point of contact between patients. Also, the larger medical team, doing crucial daily responsibilities to ensure that patients are effectively cared for and dealt with.

Healthcare assistants often work under certified nurses’ supervision and do various responsibilities solely to care for, support, and inform patients and their families. Because every day is different, the position necessitates a high level of adaptability. Moreover, a successful healthcare assistant must be able to swiftly adjust to the demands of their patients and the medical team.

So, some of the common tasks of a Healthcare assistant may include, but are not limited to:

  • Taking care of patients’ physical well-being
  • Keeping departments neat
  • Taking and recording basic measurements such as blood pressure and temperature
  • Assisting individuals with mobility issues in eating and moving
  • Catheter care (including insertion and removal)
  • Wound treatment
  • Stoma bag maintenance
  • Assisting patients in mobilizing and recovering after surgery
  • Listening to and conversing with patients

So, Healthcare assistants are frequently patients’ initial point of contact. In such a patient-facing profession, HCAs must demonstrate understanding, compassion, and confidence. Thus, Interpersonal skills are essential for establishing relationships with nursing staff and patients, putting individuals at rest during stressful and confusing situations.

Skills and personal characteristics needed

There are no fixed admission requirements to become a healthcare support worker and a healthcare assistant; however, high literacy and numeracy abilities are anticipated, and in certain situations, GCSEs (or equivalent) in English and arithmetic are also necessary.

Some positions require experience in healthcare services or care work, from paid or unpaid work or prior roles. But academic credentials aren’t everything. You’ll also need to be kind, friendly, and eager to get deep into the position – it’s a hands-on atmosphere where collaboration, communication, and organizational skills are essential.

What Makes A Good HealthCare Support Worker?

Here are some examples of healthcare support worker skills that will make an excellent healthcare support worker:

  • Consider various specializations:

Support workers frequently broaden their understanding of psychology, sociology, human services, and social work when contemplating specialities. You can specialize in speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, or social work. 

  • Research job opportunities:

Researching career options will help you decide which forms of support work to pursue and learn the unique responsibilities of various healthcare support worker job roles. You may attend an information session or meet with the owner of a company that hires support workers. 

  • Assessing individual care needs: 

As a mental health or social care support worker, you may be required to assess specific patient requirements based on their circumstances. You can investigate physical, cognitive, social, and emotional care variations. To help your patient live independently, you should determine their needs and execute changes that suit them. For example, an older patient with physical limitations may require more physical care than social care.

  •  Performing health assessments:

Health care evaluations may be complicated, requiring understanding data gathering methodologies, medical equipment, communication skills, and personal awareness. As a full support healthcare worker, you may work in a team to apply health assessment methods and practices. So, you may learn to evaluate people’s mobility, coordination, and visual-motor skills.

  • Supporting personal development:

Support workers may assist individuals in improving their abilities or finding healthcare support worker jobs in an area of study or vocation by offering resources, activities, coaching, and feedback. One way to encourage personal growth is to aid in self-directed learning through supervision or instruction. Another method that many support workers use is to set precise goals for their patients’ growth.

  • Providing educational support:

Stay up to speed with recent research that teaches healthcare assistants the usefulness of various strategies to improve educational support skills so that you may effectively assist persons in their path toward educational self-development. You can also set particular patient educational objectives, such as strengthening comprehension or testing skills. For example, you may assist a person with ADHD to develop objectives that include focusing on certain educational tasks for a set time.

  • Organizing and managing time well:

Organization and time management abilities are frequently used by support workers to care for several patients throughout the day or to execute specific care chores quickly. One of the finest time management approaches is setting precise objectives to finish work within a given period. Use a calendar, a daily planner, or time management software. 

  • Pursue job-specific training:

Support worker job-specific training courses may include classroom work, training, and work placements. These placements allow you to put what you’ve studied into practice while providing work experience that might be valuable for future job applications.

What Makes A Good HealthCare Support Worker?

So you’re considering a career in care but need to figure out what it takes to be successful? We’ve compiled a list of the top abilities to help you be an excellent Healthcare Assistant. So, if you enjoy your work, your career may be more than a job.

  • Be Caring:

First and foremost, to be a Healthcare Assistant, you must be kind! This may seem apparent, but everyone is sometimes inclined to put others ahead of themselves. However, you can acquire and grow the expertise if you are enthusiastic about it.

Caring for a family member may be second nature to you. When it comes to new service users, you must also treat them how you would like to be treated.

  • Be Positive:

A competent Healthcare Assistant will exhibit a cheerful spirit. They will stroll into a room with a smile and a positive attitude. A good attitude will assist in putting your service users at ease and make you, the caregiver, feel more confident in what you are doing.

  • Be Empathetic:

Empathy is a must-have talent for being a competent healthcare assistant. It’s critical in social care. You may discover that your healthcare service users need help to do tasks as easily as they used to.

Being patient and compassionate can assist your service consumers in relaxing, eventually leading to trust in how you work. Take your time with them, and remember that everyone has different constraints. As a healthcare assistant, if you need help understanding how your service user feels at a given time, feel free to ask them questions.

  • Be Observant:

Be observant via discussion; learning their likes and dislikes may help you create a relationship with individuals you see. Engage in conversations and listen intently to what they have to say. So, make it count!

  • Be Flexible:

Being adaptable and flexible as a Healthcare Assistant can benefit your professional life. Your hours may vary from week to week, and your job may need you to pick up shifts with short notice. This implies that caring may fit into your lifestyle rather than you fitting it into it!

You may also need to be adaptable during your appointments with the doctor. Each service user you encounter will have unique requirements and may require varying help.

Pay and Benefits

There are over 30 Healthcare Support Roles across the NHS, from Healthcare Assistant and Mental Health Support Worker to Nursing Healthcare Assistant. What they all have in common is variety: the chance to learn lots of new skills and the reward of seeing your work make a difference for patients. There’ll likely be practical things to do, including washing and dressing patients, making beds and serving meals. Also, you might learn more technical skills, like how to take blood or check a patient’s blood pressure, temperature or heart rate. So, all the roles are shift-based –there’s enhanced pay for unsocial hours.

  •  Benefits of a Healthcare Support Worker:

As you’d expect, there’s a comprehensive rewards package:

  • Enhanced pay when you work unsocial hours
  • Ongoing learning and development opportunities
  • Structured personal development and career progression plan
  • Generous NHS pension
  • Great maternity, paternity and adoption support
  • Childcare vouchers
  • Health service discounts and online benefits
  •  Staff health and well-being opportunities
  • Cycle to Work Scheme and discounts on public transport
  • 27 days of annual leave plus bank holidays (rising to 29 after five and 33 after 10 years of service)
  •  Benefits of a Healthcare Assistant:

Look at the progression in this healthcare assistant role and similar opportunities. You could also apply to train as a nurse, radiographer, dietitian, midwife or social worker.

The average healthcare assistant’s income in the United Kingdom is £23,400 annually or £12 per hour. Entry-level salaries begin at £21,200 per year, with most experienced professionals earning up to £30,619 annually.

Challenges Of These Careers

“While healthcare occupations are rising, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a 16 per cent increase from 2020 to 2030, the industry continues to confront substantial obstacles”. Employees have challenges navigating this environment as individuals in a demanding field of employment. Let’s look at some of these roadblocks so you know what’s good—and bad—about these rewarding jobs.

  • Bad parts of being a Healthcare support worker-

  • Organization Problems: Poor organizational structures cause worker dissatisfaction in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. This might be due to higher costs, security, coding changes, disruptive technologies, and general inefficiency.
  • Stress: Day-to-day stress, especially in high-intensity medical procedures, can lead to people leaving the healthcare sector entirely. Stress management continues to be challenging for physicians and nurses due to a lack of personnel or the daily grind of dealing with challenging situations.
  • Workforce Shortages: With an older population, more and more individuals visit medical visits regularly, creating a greater need for healthcare support workers. Because fewer healthcare assistant workers are available, individuals in the business must work longer shifts. Even though more monies are paid for longer shifts, the mental strain from these shortages makes this business increasingly difficult to work in.
  • Slow to Adapt to Technology: The healthcare industry hesitates to adapt to fast-evolving and life-altering technologies for various reasons. Any attempt at a digital health revolution raises regulatory and compliance hurdles, requiring it to move at a slower pace. Regulation is required for innovation, yet policymaking may stifle the process.
  • Bad parts of being a Healthcare support worker-

Being a Healthcare Assistant is a challenging career, and the hours may be challenging and entreating. A 37.5-hour agreement may seem like little, but it will seem much more with night shifts practically common.

Work may also be challenging. Although you do not have clinical responsibility, you will be put under a lot of strain since there will be a lot of patients who will want a lot of your time, and it may be a tiring career! You’ll have to do some delicate and sometimes difficult personal care. Cleaning and toileting patients can be distressing, but it’s crucial to realize how important it is to the patient’s overall care and that the patients are often more uncomfortable than you are. You will also be asked to oblige in troubles, from retrieving crucial equipment to performing CPR.

Eventually, it might be emotionally taxing. You will meet ailing patients and much suffering, bewilderment, and possibly dying. This is the reality of working in healthcare. In some respects, it is a fantastic litmus test to assess how you react to working with unhealthy patients, as this is who you will spend most of your time engaging with as a medic.


The two roles are quite similar and have overlapping areas of duty. The fundamental distinction is the daily working environment. A hospital generally employs a Healthcare Assistant who works in an NHS setting.

A Support Worker often works in a patient’s home or residential care facility and may be hired by the patient’s family. The duties are largely the same, albeit depending on the institution, a Healthcare Assistant may be called upon to assist the nursing staff more regularly.


Where can a Healthcare Support Worker role take me?

Being an HCSW is an excellent way to start with the NHS. It will offer you a taste of what a healthcare career is actually like, open your eyes to the many healthcare services jobs you might want to work towards, and if you’re thinking about applying for one of our NHS apprenticeships, the skills and experience you’ll earn will help your application truly stand out.

How can you make your Healthcare Assistant job description stand out?

First, focus on the applicant’s working environment, such as the help they will receive from fellow Healthcare Assistants and managerial personnel. Second, list competitive factors such as family-friendly perks, pension contributions, pay, bike-to-work programs, and anything else that highlights the organization’s distinctive benefits. Moreover, mention any tools available to employees to improve professionally through external courses and training. Some Healthcare Assistants prefer to get patient experience and training before becoming Licensed Practical Nurses.

What if I have no Healthcare experience?

If you’re starting a new job or making a career change, you might be surprised to know that you already possess many of the abilities we look for. You need a caring and compassionate temperament for the job, but you must also excel in communication, problem-solving, and quick decision-making.

What is the difference between a Home Healthcare Assistant and a Home Care Nurse?

Both professionals offer in-home care for needy individuals, but Home Care Nurses have greater obligations. Home Healthcare Assistants may monitor vital signs, change dressings, and handle specific nutritional requirements along with many other responsibilities and healthcare services. Also, they have a nursing degree, a greater certification level than Home Care Assistants require.

What qualities make a good Home Healthcare Assistant?

Because Home Healthcare assistants must have good people skills when working with clients, they should be pleasant and courteous so their customers would accept their assistance and appreciate their companionship. Healthcare Assistants should also be patient, as dealing with the elderly and infirm may be difficult. Because this position bears significant responsibility, the individual must be trustworthy and conscientious. They must also be concerned with people and make a difference.

Who does a Healthcare Assistant report to?

Healthcare assistants can conduct their daily work with little supervision, but they must be able to communicate the patient’s state to the nursing team. Also, they may be required to inform their Nursing Manager daily via electronic charts or once a week at general meetings. A Healthcare Assistant must be able to manage and organize many patient records so that they are easily available to nursing staff when needed. So, a Healthcare Assistant may also be entrusted with informing a patient’s relatives about their progress.

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