What is the difference between a nurse and a healthcare assistant?

UCM Recruitment

Working as a healthcare assistant (HCA) or nurse in the NHS both require you to build trusting relationships with your patients, and to be prepared for an ongoing learning experience. Although both are critical in the care of patients, the roles of nurses and HCAs vary hugely in qualifications needed, level of responsibility, and day-to-day tasks.

Are there different types of HCAs and nurses?

The specific roles carried out by an HCA or a nurse depends on which branch you have decided to go into. HCAs can find themselves working in a hospital setting, under the supervision of a nurse, midwife or doctor. Roles are also available in healthcare clinics.

Nursing specialities are numerous, with the main nursing branches being adult, children’s, and mental health. Nursing is a very varied and exciting career, where you may end up working in a hospital, the community, or even in the prison or police service.

Can I become an HCA without a qualification?

A major difference between becoming a nurse or HCA is the level of education and training needed. Although entry requirements can vary, nursing is a graduate career. Training to become a nurse can be done through a traditional university route, or there may be an option for a nursing degree apprenticeship.

Healthcare Assistants, on the other hand, do not have set formal entry requirements. When looking for a job though, having GCSEs in English and maths, experience, and a BTEC or NVQ healthcare qualification will vastly improve your chances of getting a role.

How do the responsibilities of nurses and HCAs differ?

Both a nurse and an HCA have a lot of patient contact and are both important to the care of a patient. However, their levels of responsibility and day-to-day tasks differ a lot.

Under guidance, an HCA in a hospital will spend their day tending to the basic needs of the patients under their care. This can include helping to feed a patient, taking them to the toilet, making beds and getting them washed and dressed.

A nurse, on the other hand, is far more involved in the medical care of the patient, and has more direct responsibility for the well being of the patient. As an adult nurse, you will be expected to have a level of autonomy with observing and assessing a patient’s condition, and then planning and delivering their care.

Whether your patient has a long-term or short-term condition, or many conditions presented at once, you will be expected to juggle many priorities in that patient’s care. Prioritising their dignity and well-being, alongside their recovery, can be one of the many rewards of nursing.

UCM Healthcare is here to help you find your next exciting HCA or nursing role, talk to Jaydene Allan today about healthcare roles that we have coming up in Liverpool, or advice on your next career move.

Tel: 0151 433 2912

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