Medical students working as health care assistants: an evaluation

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Background: The General Medical Council requires that medical students are taught human values and how to work effectively with colleagues. Health care assistants (HCAs) provide fundamental patient care as part of the wider health care team. Reports suggest that medical students gain valuable insights when working as HCAs.

Methods: In 2015, a pilot was developed for medical students to work as and with HCAs. The experience involved 3 days training in preparation for three supervised shifts. The pilot was expanded to involve more students and clinical partners.

Results: A total of 131 students completed the HCA project between 2015 and 2018. Students were asked to complete a questionnaire where they scored a set of statements using a 5‐point Likert scale, and gave open comments that were analysed thematically. A total of 119 students completed the questionnaire, of which 91% of students rated the experience as good or excellent and 98% of students agreed or completely agreed that they had met the learning outcomes. Themes centred around: feeling empathy; building confidence; appreciating the HCA team role; and how this experience may influence their future practice as doctors. A total of 87% of students said the experience should be mandatory.

Conclusions: Students find the opportunity to work as HCAs meaningful and enjoyable. This brief initiative may help students develop a number of skills and attributes that assist in shaping future doctors. Further to helping medical students understand what values‐based practice actually means and why it matters to patients, it also clarifies HCAs’ and other professionals’ contribution to the wider health care team. A research study is underway to evidence its impact.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-388
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Teacher
Issue number4
Early online date7 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

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