I subscribe to the Nursing Standard. A very good publication with many articles of both educational and thought provoking value. One such article appeared on page 9 of the latest issue. Should student nurses be learning from Healthcare Assistants? I felt this topic warranted more than the small paragraph it was given.
First off lets breakdown the structure of a ward. You have the Ward Manager who is the top nurse, then Senior Nurses, Junior Nurses, Clinical Nursing Assistants, Senior Healthcare Assistants and Finally Healthcare Assistants. Each of the latter three are healthcare assistants. A healthcare assistants role is to aid the nurses where possible but also perform tasks that directly benefit the patient, for example aiding the patient with the 12 activities of daily living(Roper, Logan and Tierney). These tasks are also expected of nurses however nurses have other duties which mean they can not do this all the time.
A student nurse needs to learn all of the clinical duties of his or her role, However I am certain that before you can learn to be a nurse you must learn to be a healthcare assistant. This doesnt mean you wash someone once and say 'thats it I can now move on'. Many student nurses feel that healthcare assistant work is beneath them, this is insane as a seasoned healthcare assistant is likely to a lot more than you will by the end of your training. I was formerly a senior healthcare assistant so my judgement may be a little askew.
On my first placement the one man I learned the most from, was a clinical nursing assistant. The nurses taught me the clinical skills i required but a trained ape can give a subcutaneous injection, a huge amount of what it is to be a nurse is in your attitude and how you approach every challenge you are faced with. This clinical nursing assistants key trait was to look at an obstacle mutter 'improvise, adapt, overcome' and develop an incredible efficient solution. Without realising it, working with this man for nine weeks left me with the same trait.
I honestly believe that on a student nurses first placement, their mentor should be a healthcare assistant. The tasks that the student would learn here are the foundation of good nursing practise.