“From doing to knowing”: Medical students’ experiences of working as Healthcare Assistants

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There is growing recognition that doctors need to deliver person-centred care. More evidence is needed on how to best equip students in an already busy curriculum. Providing medical students with the opportunity to work as Healthcare Assistants (HCAs) can help them develop the desired skills. This study examined medical students’ experiences of working as HCAs and perceived impact on their future practice.

Adopting an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis approach, we analysed narratives from two focus groups of 13 ‘Year 0’ and ‘Year 1’ medical students, who had completed an HCA project.

This project allowed participants to experience a new dimension of patient care whereby learning by “doing” evolved to a deeper level of “knowing” patients, the HCA role and the wider team. Four major themes were identified: seeing the doctor: gaining new perspectives; building confidence: learning from and about patients; understanding the overall patient experience: providing personal care; finding ‘the person behind the patient’: exploring beyond the diagnosis.

This study suggests that working as an HCA enables participants to develop sustainable skills that equip them for their future role as doctors able to deliver patient-centred care as part of an interprofessional team. Recommendations for inclusion of this type of intervention into the medical curriculum are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)560-566
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Interprofessional Care
Issue number4
Early online date28 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2022


  • healthcare assistant
  • interprofessional
  • medical curricula
  • patient-centred care
  • qualitative research
  • values-based practice

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