Newcastle’s Healthcare Assistant (HCA) Academy first opened its doors in October 2013 in what was our then new Cragside Education Centre at the Campus of Ageing and Vitality furnished with a teaching classroom, three bedded clinical area and home to our first patient manikin named Suki.
Each year the Academy team supports around 200 healthcare support workers (HCSWs) including HCA apprentices and is the first port of call for any new HCSW staff joining the Trust.
To date the Academy has supported over 2,000 HCSWs ensuring they feel prepared and confident with the knowledge and practical skills they need before joining their colleagues to care for patients in a wide range of clinical areas.
These fundamental skills include bed bathing and cleaning, taking observations using medical devices such as the Accu-chek, tissue viability to help prevent pressure ulcers, supporting people with learning disabilities and other special needs, and end of life care.
Following the taught programme, every HCSW undergoes a rigorous assessment receiving the National Care Certificate which was introduced in 2015.
The HCA Academy programme is robust evolving over time, being flexible to the changing needs in healthcare.
For example during the pandemic the Academy team responded to both national and organisational need. They continued to deliver face to face training, reduced class sizes due to social distancing requirements and welcomed three additional patient manikins.
Delivery of the Academy would not be possible without support from colleagues across the trust including human resources, the wider education and workforce development team, to the wide range of influential speakers who deliver sessions as part of the Academy programmes.
A new home fit for 21st century training and education
In May 2023 the HCA Academy moved to its new, state of the art home in the Eldon Court Education Centre. It is here where our HCSWs benefit from numerous teaching classrooms and two four bedded clinical areas kitted out as it would be in a hospital ward or clinic room. Adult and paediatric manikins enable hands on practical training exploring real life scenarios.
Gill Long, Associate Director for Education, Training and Workforce Development gave thanks to all HCSWs in the trust and said the value they add every day “is unbelievable”.
“Our HCSWs are very much the backbone of our wards and clinics” said Gill. “They have enormous insight into what’s going on in their area – they know how everyone is feeling, both patients and staff – and see things others perhaps don’t because they are integral to every element of how their clinical areas are run.”
The HCA Academy is a highly valued part of the training we offer to support our HCSWs at the beginning of their healthcare career at the trust.
The Academy team offers a diverse range of both clinical and non-clinical courses providing support and development opportunities and the curriculum on offer will continue to grow.
Gill shared her own personal experience describing how her 30 year nursing career started as a healthcare support worker in Cumbria, firstly providing nursing cover and then working in the community. “Looking after people in their own homes was a fantastic experience,” said Gill. “I learnt more during this time than I did during my first year as a nurse.
The insight and input of our HCSW workforce should never be underestimated and I hope you all feel very proud.Gill Long, Associate Director for Education, Training and Workforce Development
Lisa Guthrie, Associate Director for Nursing described how the Academy models the values of the Newcastle Hospitals.
- We care and are kind: HCSWs leave the Academy with an intrinsic understanding of the importance and power of having compassion for our patients in everything they do and caring for each other and our colleagues
- We have high standards: the Academy programme delivers high quality training and education to support our HCSWs to provide the highest standards of care, constantly seeking to improve
- We are inclusive: everyone is welcome here and we celebrate diversity. We actively listen to different voices and earlier this year we held a Widening Participation event in the West End of Newcastle which has helped us to recruit more HCSWs who are representative of our diverse and culturally rich community
- We are innovative: our HCSWs are all seeing eyes on our wards and clinics – they know what works and what doesn’t so we are encourage ideas and feedback through our new Wisdom Group and Shared Decision Making Council – one of our HCSWs Lisa Morgan is the Chair of the Regional Council
- We are proud: we all want to feel valued and the value our HCSWs bring is very much recognised which is why we are committed to celebrating all that they do. We nominate our HCSWs for Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Awards and have had two winners to date – HCSW Lisa Morgan and Maternity SW Jenny Reed – we very much encourage more nominations for colleagues and to get involved in our Wisdom Group.
Lisa closed by saying how very proud she was of everything our HCSWs achieve and that they should feel very proud too.
We heard from some of our fantastic HCSWs who benefited from the HCA Academy. You can read their stories here: