Becoming a healthcare assistant
At school Jessica Bland Jennings knew she wanted to work in healthcare. Her A Level choice comprised of PE, AS in Geography and a BTEC health and social care and her ambition was to become a paramedic.
When she left school, she worked as a life guard but she also completed an anatomy and physiology top up course to secure the qualifications needed to become a paramedic.
However, although she had the right qualifications, she was turned down because of her lack of hands on experience with patients. Undeterred, Jessica saw an NHS job advertisement for a health care assistant role in Northampton General Hospital and thought this would be a fantastic way to gain experience. She applied for the job and has worked on the trauma and orthopaedic ward ever since.
What are the job highlights?
Jessica loves being a healthcare assistant. She says, “The best thing about being a health care assistant are the patients – you really get to know them and their families and build great relationships with them.
“ I love the fact I am helping patients with what can seem like simple tasks, but they make such a difference to their day. This could be giving them a wash, helping them have a shower or shave, helping them put on their make up or even painting their nails – making them feel human. I don’t feel as though I have done my job properly unless I go home knowing I have helped at least one person.”
Other key parts a healthcare assistant’s role is taking vital sets of observations including blood pressure readings and checking pulses, oxygen saturations, temperatures and respiration rates.
Such observations help them recognise if a patient is becoming unwell. The HCAs communicate with nurses to ensure that a patient who may be deteriorating gets the correct treatment in a timely manner.
The great team environment at Northampton General Hospital and the support all the healthcare assistants and nursing receive from senior staff is another major benefit.
Jessica said, “There is a great team environment at Northampton General – even when we are at our busiest – there are other nurses with different skills and we work really well together as a team. There is also usually a ward sister close by if we need advice and support.”
She added, “No day on the ward is the same. There is such variety of people and work – I love it! The other doctors and nurses are very friendly too - there is a great atmosphere.”
What are the challenges?
Jessica said, “We are sometimes short staffed and there can be a heavy workload. The work can be emotionally and physically draining too but there is great support for all the workforce here. We feel valued at the hospital and with great teams in place I feel confident that even when we are very busy we can provide a great service for patients.”
After two years working as a health care assistant, Jessica decided she wanted to do more for patients and she enrolled on the adult nursing course at Northampton University – a three year degree course where nurses leave with a BSc in Nursing.
This was three years ago and in a few weeks Jessica will complete the course and start a fulltime nursing role at Northampton General in the vascular department. She was offered three roles – one in Nottingham and two in Northampton General.
Whereas some students were nervous with patients, Jessica’s years of experience working as a health care assistant meant she was very confident and adept working with patients and also very used to a hospital environment.
She said, “It is five years ago exactly that I started work as a healthcare assistant – it was the best decision I have ever made. I haven’t looked back. I continued to work as a healthcare assistant throughout my nursing degree and in a few weeks’ time I will be qualified as a nurse and start in my new role – I can’t wait.”
I will definitely be nursing in 10 years’ time. It is my vocation. However, I think I will probably specialise in something like palliative care as it would suit my skills and experience and I love working so closely with patients and their families and making a real difference to them.
Northampton University is currently recruiting students for its Adult Nursing Course starting in October. https://www.northampton.ac.uk/study/courses/adult-nursing-bsc-hons/
Northampton General Hospital is part of the Best of Both World’s Recruitment campaign – a dedicated campaign where all the trusts and the university have joined forces in a bid to jointly recruit healthcare staff including healthcare assistants, nurses and doctors to work in Northamptonshire.