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Become an HCA

Become an HCA, AP or TNA

Healthcare Assistants (HCAs), Assistant practitioners (APs) and Trainee Nursing Associates (TNA) are a vital part of the nursing team. They can be found working in all sorts of settings, including hospitals, doctors' surgeries and the community.

Our ‘health practitioner’ members work across every healthcare discipline, including the criminal justice system, mental health and learning disability. They work with infants, children and young people and in the care of the older person, supporting registered nurses in the delivery of nursing care.

To carry out your role as a health care support worker (HCSW) safely, you must be properly trained and supervised, and your employer has a duty to make sure you are appropriately trained and that you are assessed as competent for your role. They must provide an induction for you so that you have the knowledge, skills and understanding to do your role in a compassionate and caring way, wherever you work. Each UK country has its own guidance and standards for induction. Our online learning resource First Steps for HCAs is a perfect supplement to your induction programme and can help you to build on your knowledge and understanding on a range of important issues.

Become an HCA

There are no specific national requirements for becoming an HCA. You simply need to apply for a job as one. Once you have been accepted, your employer will provide the training you need. You should consider getting work experience before you apply so you'll know what it’s like to work in health care. You may find it helpful to look at First Steps for Healthcare Assistants for background information.


Your training will vary depending on where you work. That's because the knowledge and skills needed to work in a GP surgery, for example, are different from those required to work in a residential home or in a mental health setting. Some employers have internal training departments while others use further education colleges or offer apprenticeships, but you must be trained for the role you will perform. Find out more on the NHS Careers website.

Find out more about the role of the Healthcare Assistant (HCA) by viewing our case studies.

Lilia Ciobanu

Lilia Ciobanu

Lilia Ciobanu is a Healthcare Assistant (HCA) at Barts Health NHS. Lilia has been in post since 2014 and works as a Theatre Nursing Assistant. Read Lilia's case study.

Alia Shah

Alia Shah

Alia Shah is a Healthcare Assistant (HCA) at Great Ormond Street hospital. Alia has been in post for just over a year and works on a haematology and oncology ward. Read Alia's case study.

Ian White

Ian White

Ian White is a Healthcare Assistant (HCA) at Moorfields Bedford Hospital. Ian has been in post for just over two years and works as a Theatre Assistant. Read Ian's case study.

Ann Witcomb

Ann Witcomb

Ann Witcomb is a Senior Healthcare Assistant (HCA) working at Westerham GP practice, she has been in post for over ten years. As well as running busy general clinics Ann assists with the training a development of other HCAs. Read Ann's case study.

Become an AP

Assistant practitioners are a growing part of the healthcare workforce. Sometimes known as associate practitioners, they take on more responsibilities than Healthcare Assistants, under the delegation of registered colleagues in a range of different settings.

As an AP, you may be able to progress onto further education, such as secondment onto a pre-registration programme, with support from your employer.


One of the most popular ways to become an AP is to complete a foundation degree (or equivalent) in health care, which involves a combination of study and supervised practice. If you are working as an HCA, your employer may support you through a foundation degree. Make sure you find out from your employer if there are AP posts available before you train for the role.

A day in the life of an AP is varied and depends on the field you’re employed in. You can find out more about becoming an AP on the NHS Careers website.

Watch Anita Prince talking about her Assistant Practiioner role.

Find out more about the role of the Assistant practitioner (AP) by viewing our case studies.

Lindsay Cardwell

Lindsay Cardwell has been an Assistant practitioner (AP) for six years. Lindsay works in a busy district nursing team with North Somerset community partnership. Read Lindsay's case study.

Lauren Holland

Lauren Holland has worked in healthcare for the last sixteen years. in her current role Lauren works as an Assistant Research Practitioner at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Read Laurens case study.

Become a Nursing Associate

Nursing associates are a new support role introduced to the health care workforce. They will work alongside Healthcare Assistants, Assistant practitioners and graduate registered nurses in training for two years, and attend universities and further education colleges part-time.

2,000 trainee nursing associates have begun their training. The NMC have introduced a newsletter for TNA’s. Sign up to receive the Trainee Nursing Associates newsletter.

Find out more about nursing associates.

Watch Hannah Shelson and Lisa Grognet talking aout their Trainee Nursing Associate roles.

Find out more about the role of the Trainee Nursing Associate (TNA) by viewing our case studies

Michelle Alderson

Michelle Alderson

Michelle Alderson is employed as a Trainee Nursing Associate (TNA) for Sirona Care and Health in extra care, which is a social care facility in Bristol. Before Michele commenced the TNA programme she was a step-down support worker helping individuals to rehabilitate in an assisted living environment. Read Michelle's case study.

Beatrice Tripp

Beatrice Tripp has been working as a Trainee Nursing Associate since 2017. Beatrice works on a CAMHS Tier 4 unit in Plymouth and was a Healthcare Assistant on that unit for eighteen months before she became a TNA. Read Beatrice's case study.

first steps signpost image

First steps

First Steps is the RCN’s most popular free e-learning tool for Healthcare Assistants. It’s a perfect resource to dip in and out of, whether you’re new to the post or looking to refresh your knowledge and skills.

Get started

TNA video case studies

Meet the future nursing associates. Find out more about the role of the clinical educator and a trainee nursing associate (TNA) manager and listen to a story from an Assistant practitioner who supports TNAs in practice.
other routes into nursing

Finding a job

Healthcare Assistants are a vital part of the nursing team

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