Health care assistant, Southend Hospital

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“Sometimes the emergency buzzers go off. It's a real adrenalin rush someone with cardiac arrest, or maybe 'fast AF' (atrial fibulation) which means they are dangerously ill.”

What do you do?

I'm one of five HCAs (we're sometimes called auxiliary nurses) working on a large general medical ward. We work shifts, alongside two staff nurses, to provide all the hands-on care that our patients need. I deal with the seven beds in the men's bay. We have patients with all kinds of problems: people recovering after surgery, people with cancer or other illnesses; elderly gents and young guys.

What is your typical day?

First job of the day is the 'handover' where we're brought up to speed about each of the patients; what has happened in the night and what needs to be done. Then I prepare my trolley: setting up clothes, towels, shampoo and all the equipment I'm going to need. I wake people, get them washed and dressed and comfortable and ready for the day. I help serve breakfast and the morning proceeds with changing dressings and bed sheets, and answering patients' buzzer calls.

A lot of my work revolves around 'OBs': taking observations and monitoring patients' conditions. These are the checks and records of temperature, pulse, respiration, food and fluid intake that have to be taken every four, two or even every hour. I also have to check and adjust the machines that are supporting each patient, like the blood monitor which controls sugar levels and drugs being fed into the bloodstream. Then I have to update each person's chart with all the relevant information.

Sometimes the emergency buzzers go off. It's a real adrenalin rush someone with cardiac arrest, or maybe 'fast AF' (atrial fibulation) which means they are dangerously ill. We all rush to get emergency equipment, oxygen, masks, and put out calls for the doctors. You have to be constantly alert in this job: it's down to you to spot anything unusual and report it back to the nurses. It really can be a matter of life and death.