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Listen up: A medic has much to learn from an HCA

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I have two lives. Each helps the other be more effective but it is not something I normally confess to.

For two-and-a-half months of the year I earn my living as a healthcare assistant at my local hospital. I work on the bank and appreciate the flexibility this offers. I also appreciate the way I’m generally accepted as part of the team. It has helped me to develop my interpersonal skills, taught me to respect confidentiality and put ethical principles into practice on a daily basis. In short, from when I started as an inexperienced 18-year-old, it has helped me grow up.

Then we come to my other life. The rest of the year I’m a student, a medical student. I sense you tense as you read that last sentence. What is a medic doing writing in Nursing Times? Well, without my time as an HCA I wouldn’t be the person I am.

I would be far less aware of the role of the rest of the nursing team, less aware of the way we can complement and support each other.

A nurse who discovered my ‘other life’ one long, hectic shift said: ‘I can always tell which health professionals have worked as auxiliaries when they were students – they’re just better all round.’

Many nurses come to the profession via the HCA route but it is less common among other health professionals. Perhaps there is something to be said for all those who want to be a health professional to take a stint on what is regarded as the bottom of the ladder.

After all, without support workers no one else could do their job. Not only would it result in HCAs gaining more deserved respect but we’d all engage with our chosen paths more effectively and be grateful for the roles played by the rest of the team.

Roanna Mitford, nursing auxiliary, Harrogate Hospital and third-year medical student, Liverpool University

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