Career advice

Making sure work is recognised and valued

Lorraine Hicking-Woodison on the privilege and rewarding feeling you get from being an assistant practitioner, advising healthcare support workers. 

Lorraine Hicking-Woodison is a healthcare support worker adviser in the practice nurse adviser team hosted by West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group


Lorraine Hicking-Woodison (centre) with practice staff.

I have been a healthcare support worker (HCSW) in a GP practice for 11 years, beginning as a healthcare assistant and working for the past six years as an assistant practitioner. In 2014, I was appointed HCSW adviser, as part of a practice nurse adviser (PNA) team, and HCSW training lead for GP practices in Kent and Medway.

Clear understanding

I have been a member of the RCN health practitioner committee, representing the South East of England, since 2009. I am proud to say that things have changed massively in this time. I have provided leadership and direction to ensure that the RCN has a clear understanding of our issues, and have been actively involved in campaigning for statutory regulation, a goal to which I am fully committed.

It was my RCN work that first attracted the attention of members of the PNA team, who were keen to have an HCSW representative. The PNA team offers clinical supervision, educational forums, one-to-one mentoring and professional support to GP practice nursing teams. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to join a dynamic team and to contribute to the valuable work they undertake.

Lone working environment

Working in general practice is challenging, dynamic and rewarding, but many HCSWs work alone, under indirect supervision of a registered practitioner, so having easy access to advice and support is important. As HCSW adviser, I am proud to help healthcare assistants and assistant practitioners in professional matters and provide information on training and education. I also deliver some of this training.

Healthcare assistants and assistant practitioners tell me they are keen to have a career pathway, and in Kent and Medway the PNA team has developed a suite of resources for HCSWs. This includes a code of conduct, a code of practice and a set of essential knowledge and core standards, which together have improved efficiency by encouraging healthcare assistants and APs to work to common standards across the area.

Many of the questions and queries I receive from HCSWs are around training and education so, when a position for an HCSW tutor came up, I jumped at the opportunity. With my background working in general practice, training and education qualification, I was in good position to deliver a course, Knowledge and Skills in Primary Care (KaSPaC), which has been developed for healthcare assistants in Kent.

KaSPaC and the care certificate, introduced in 2015, will ensure that HCSWs are competent to undertake the necessary roles and responsibilities, and provides clear evidence to employers, patients and those who receive care and support that HCSWs have been trained to specific standards. It will also ensure that HCSWs have the skills, knowledge and behaviours to provide compassionate high-quality care and support.

Developing and nurturing

The thing I love the most about being a tutor is holding the in-class debates. It’s an opportunity for the healthcare assistants to engage with the material they are studying in different ways. It helps to develop critical thinking, research skills and organisation of information. It’s also rewarding and empowering to see the students’ confidence and ability grow.

I am passionate about all the roles and tasks I undertake. As an assistant practitioner, there are few things more rewarding than caring for people and making a difference to their well-being. It is a privilege as a tutor and HCSW adviser to be able to influence the successful development of other HCSWs. The roles of the healthcare assistant and assistant practitioner are constantly evolving. My goal is to make certain that the fantastic work they undertake is recognised and valued, and that they are supported to deliver high-quality, safe and effective care.

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