Meet the Expert: healthcare support workers Johanna and Michael

Meet the Expert is a live video session run by My World of Work, where experts discuss their roles and offer tips to young people considering a similar career. In the session, young people can ask questions and gain insight into the expert’s work.

NHSScotland healthcare support workers Johanna and Michael spoke about their roles at a recent session.

As healthcare support workers, Johanna and Michael work with nurses, surgeons, hospital doctors and other healthcare professionals to deliver high-quality person-centred care.

Johanna works in the recovery and theatre department. Michael is based in the cardiothoracic surgery department.

What made you choose the role of healthcare support worker?

Johanna explains that she used to work in retail and loved getting to interact with different people. She also experienced a short hospital stay, where she got to experience the impact she could have working in healthcare. It was then that she decided that she wanted to help make a difference to people by working in the health service.

Michael says that he feels he stumbled into the healthcare service. He was very interested in sports and coaching, so he already loved to help people. Friends and family who already worked for the NHS told Michael about it being a great place to work. They highlighted all the opportunities for career development and progression, so Michael decided to give it a try.

Find out more about the different healthcare support worker roles.

What school subjects are useful for your role?

Johanna says that one of the great things about being a healthcare support worker is that it doesn’t ask for specific school subjects. However, she really recommends English and Maths. English is particularly useful because of the range of people you need to communicate with every day. You always need to make sure you’re understood and that you can understand the patient. Johanna also stresses the importance of good computer skills because the role can involve administrative tasks.

What does a typical day for a healthcare support worker?

Working in cardiothoracic theatres, Michael begins the day by working with a registered practitioner to get a patient ready. Once the patient is safely in theatre, Michael either: 

  • assists the operating department practitioner (ODP) and anaesthetist
  • helps set up the theatre with the scrub nurse

In the recovery department, Johanna starts her day by finding out how many scrubs and linens she needs to order. She uses her excellent computer skills to make these orders. Then she begins collecting equipment, returning any items that are no longer needed, or taking equipment to the wards. Johanna also spends a lot of her day helping the nurses with patients who are waking up after surgery. She makes sure nurses have everything they need and that patients feel comfortable.

What’s the best part and the most challenging part of being a healthcare support worker?

Michael says making a difference is the best part of his role. Working with his colleagues towards the same goal of looking after the patient is also great. As a healthcare support worker, you get to have an impact on the life of a patient. You feel good knowing that the patient is leaving the hospital in better condition than when they came in.

The most challenging part of Michael’s job is that it can be difficult sometimes if things don’t go to plan in theatre.

Johanna also says making a difference is the best part of her role. She says that helping the patient is at the centre of everyone’s work in the health service. Johanna loves being able to chat with patients and make sure she’s helping them any way she can.

The most challenging part of Johanna’s work is that it can be very busy. However, she explains that if you can keep organised, then it shouldn’t get too challenging. She also explains that it’s great to feel needed and so she’s happy to go the extra mile to offer her support.

Do you need to go to university to become a healthcare support worker?

Michael explains that you don’t need to go to university for this role. You also don’t need any healthcare experience. He says he started in his role after coming from a background in sports coaching and retail work. The most important thing for this role is being good with people and a great team worker.

Find out more about your transferable skills by watching our transferable skills video.

Johanna said that, even though you don’t need any specific education for the role, there are lots of learning opportunities once you start. In this job, you’ll learn about the work of lots of different registered healthcare professionals. You’ll learn a lot about roles like nursing or working as an operating department practitioner. The role might give you the experience you need to decide whether being a registered healthcare professional is for you.

Do you need to work shifts in your role?

Johanna and Michael say that neither of them needs to work shifts in their role.

Johanna works 4 days a week, with a day off on Wednesday and 2 days off for the weekend. Michael works 3.5 days a week, but he can also be on call. If he’s on call, Michael needs to be available if surgery runs late or if there’s an emergency.

What are your plans for the future?

Michael says he really enjoys working with anaesthetists and ODPs. He’s now training to become an ODP while he works.

Johanna is still deciding what she might like to do next. She’s considering applying for a nursing degree with the Open University, which means she’ll be able to continue in her role while she studies. However, she also says she’s really enjoying her current work and would be more than happy to continue working as a healthcare support worker.

Attending Meet the Expert Sessions

If you’re a school teacher interested in having your class attend future Meet the Expert sessions with NHSScotland employees, get involved by signing up at My World of Work.

View Johanna’s and Michael’s Meet the Expert session on Youtube.

Learn more about other careers in the NHS by reading our blog about podiatrist Hannah and dietitian Scot.