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Become an HCA

Become a Healthcare Assistant or AP

Healthcare Assistants (HCAs) and Assistant Practitioners (APs) 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 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 assistant 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. Take a look at our training section to see if you have received all the training you could have. Your employers 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 be passionate about working with people and be caring and compassionate 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.

Training on the job

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 RCN Careers webpages and 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. Find out more about becoming an assistant practitioner.

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

Maternity Support Workers (MSWs)

Maternity support workers are an integral part of the maternity workforce and play an important role in supporting midwives and the wider maternity teams, mothers and their babies through pregnancy, labour and during the postnatal period.

These documents highlight the roles and responsibilities of MSWs:

Become a midwife

Find out more about becoming a midwife

other routes into nursing

Finding a job

Healthcare Assistants are a vital part of the nursing team


Find a job