How to Become a Healthcare Assistant

31 March 2021

two men explain the subject on the board

At TTM Healthcare Solutions we’re proud to be the largest of all Healthcare Assistant (HCA) agencies in Ireland – placing people in these caring, important roles across the country. But what does Healthcare Assistant work really involve? What is the difference between a registered Nurse and a Healthcare Assistant? What qualifications do you need and where might you find yourself working?

In this blog we address these important questions, paving your way forward to a rewarding and challenging career as one of Ireland’s much-needed Healthcare Assistants.

What Does a Healthcare Assistant Do?

The work of an agency Healthcare Assistant in Ireland depends on the setting or environment in which you work.

A Healthcare Assistant in a HSE Hospital…

In HSE hospitals, Healthcare Assistants are the vital link between Nurse and patient, and work alongside other healthcare professionals to assist them with duties. A Healthcare Assistant can also support Doctors, Midwives and many other healthcare professionals. One example of their role might be their importance in preparing patients before an operation, test or procedure – communicating with them, putting them at ease and making sure all goes smoothly, while being guided by Nursing staff.

In a HSE setting, Healthcare Assistants give direct care under the direction and supervision of the qualified nurse, who have assessed the patient and established the level of care need. In a standard hospital setting a Healthcare Assistant role might also include:

- Supporting people with social and physical activities;

- Booking and going with people to appointments;

- Helping with personal care such as support with showering and dressing;

- Supporting people with eating and drinking and keeping the patients mobile.

Your role as a Healthcare Assistant gives enormous support to nurses who are then released to do other tasks that require more detailed knowledge, qualifications and skills.

This is an important and vital role, as well as very rewarding and varied as you will interact with lots of patients, visitors and hospital staff on a daily basis.

A Healthcare Assistant in the Community / Voluntary Organisations…

At TTM we also source and place agency Healthcare Assistants for community and voluntary healthcare providers. These Healthcare Assistants help to care for the vulnerable in our communities, including the elderly and those with intellectual disabilities – both children and adults. This is a very diverse area of work and your responsibilities will depend on the type of organisation at which you are placed.

We source and supply many private Nursing Homes with Healthcare Assistants. In addition, we have long-lasting, established relationships with many different NGOs.

Healthcare Assistants can work within Residential settings, supporting service users who need full-time or shared care and providing assistance according to their individual care plans. You may also choose to work as part of an Outreach or Day service – helping service users integrate within their communities and pursue interests and activities. In some settings, Healthcare Assistants may be known as Support Workers.

The benefit of this kind of Healthcare Assistant agency work is that it can be so diverse and give you experience across many different areas of specialty. This can give you the chance to find your interest or niche – while there is always the opportunity to secure full-time, permanent positions too.

All of these roles through TTM involve a range of shift patterns – days, nights and sleepovers. Days can range from shorter shifts such as 9am to 5pm or an 8 am to 8pm shift. Nights are typically 12 hours - 9pm to 9am and 8pm to 8am. Waking nights and sleepover shifts include a variety of start and end times, including 24-hour shifts.

What Qualifications Do I Need to be a Healthcare Assistant?

A Healthcare Assistant in a Hospital…

For this role you will need to meet qualification requirements as set by the HSE. You will need a minimum of a QQI/FETAC Level 5 Major Award in Healthcare Support or Pre-nursing Studies. You will be required to have all 8 Modules completed, comprising 120 Credits. In addition you will need to:

- Be eligible to work in Ireland;

- Have a minimum of 3 months’ recent experience in a caring/support role – and be able to supply references;

- Be fluent in written and spoken English;

- Hold a full vaccination record including Hep B (3 shots & titre), MMR, TB and Varicella;

- Have, or be willing to complete, essential additional training as required if not already completed.

A Healthcare Assistant in the Community / Voluntary Organisations…

Qualifications will vary according to the organisation with which you work: they may require different special training depending on their area of specialty. Essentially though you will need a QQI/FETAC Level 5 Major Award in Healthcare Support or a Social Care level 7/8 qualification. Depending on a client’s needs, qualified SNAs with relevant experience can also apply for these roles.

Remember too that you can apply for these roles before you have completed the relevant training. You can book your training and complete the courses throughout the compliance process.

What’s the Difference Between a Nurse and a Healthcare Assistant?

While Nurses and Healthcare Assistants both care for patients, there are important differences in their roles. A Nurse is responsible for a patient’s medical care and has greater freedom when it comes to assessing and observing their health and condition. A Healthcare Assistant is involved in a patient’s basic, daily and personal care.

In Ireland, Nursing is a graduate career so involves extensive study. You don’t need to earn a degree to be a Healthcare Assistant – a QQI Level 5 qualification allows you to work in the role.

Find out more about becoming an Agency Nurse with TTM.

How Much Can I Earn as a Healthcare Assistant?

If you are a Healthcare Assistant working within a HSE setting, rates of pay will be in line with your experience – and increasing every 12 months. The rates range is:

- Day Rates Monday - Saturday: €15.28 - €19.63

- Day Rates Sunday: €34.39 - €44.16

- Night Rates Monday - Saturday: €20.88 - €24.53

- Night Rates Sunday: €30.57 - €39.25

Premiums are paid for weekend and night shifts. Healthcare Assistant salaries within community, private and voluntary settings will vary according to individual organisations.

Search for Healthcare Assistant jobs with TTM.

What Healthcare Assistant Jobs are Available?

TTM has open Healthcare Assistant roles with the following HSE hospitals in Ireland: South Tipperary General Hospital, Temple Street Hospital, University Hospital Limerick, Cork University Hospital, Tallaght University Hospital, St. James’ Hospital, Naas General Hospital, Tullamore Hospital, Waterford Hospital and Portlaoise Hospital.

​We have jobs available in community settings in: Cork City, County Cork (Charleville, Fermoy, Mallow) Tipperary (Clonmel, Roscrea, Holycross, Cashel), North Dublin (Navan, Swords), Wexford, Kildare (Naas).

Register your interest with our Healthcare Assistants team and search all HCA jobs here.