First Steps for Health Care Assistants

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) brings you First Steps for Health Care Assistants (HCAs) to support you either individually – or as part of your workplace induction programme –to learn in your own time, the most important factors that will get you started in your health care career.

First Steps has been developed around the NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework and codes and standards for each of the UK countries, see ‘Information for employers’.

First Steps maps to a range of National Occupational Standards that can be printed off in the form of an assessment checklist that could form the basis of a portfolio of learning. We also suggest that you record your reflections, and have provided a reflective diary for you to complete when you reach the end of each topic. You can use it to build up into a portfolio of learning. Learn more about reflection.

Overarching learning outcomes

After completing all the sections in this learning resource, the learner should be able to:

  • explain the role of the HCA and the boundaries of the role, taking into account your individual rights and responsibilities
  • describe what is meant by person – centred care and patient safety
  • explain the process for identifying and reporting suspected abuse of vulnerable people (safeguarding)
  • describe the principles of promoting health
  • describe the principles of effective communication
  • describe the legal requirements regarding confidentiality, consent and capacity
  • explain best practice for recording and accessing medical records
  • describe the principles of quality care in terms of: teamwork; accountability and delegation; and best practice guidelines
  • describe the principles of equality, diversity and rights in terms of: the legal requirements; promoting and treating people with dignity, respect and privacy; and the process for raising concerns
  • explain the policies and practices that protect the safety of staff and all other individuals in the workplace environment
  • describe the principles of infection prevention and control including the importance and practice of good hand hygiene
  • explain the importance and benefits of continuing professional development and reflective practice as a lifelong learner
  • explain the procedure for undertaking a range of observation activities.


We hope you find First Steps useful and enjoy using it. Do show it to your friends and colleagues, and let your employers know about it too. Please complete the survey once you have worked through the resource.

We welcome your feedback about this online induction resource and invite you to share your views about your learning experience. Please get in contact with us at hca@rcn.org.uk

Looking for next steps?

If you have been in your role for a while or have worked your way through First Steps and are looking for more, the RCN has a range of online learning resources on specific topics such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, patient safety and supporting people’s nutritional needs. These and many more are available at http://www.rcn.org.uk/development/practice/cpd_online_learning. There are even more topics and useful resources such as an e-portfolio in the Learning Zone for RCN members: http://www.rcn.org.uk/development/learning/learningzone

This resource is mapped to National Occupational Standards.


It is also mapped to the Care Certificate


and the standards relevant to all UK countries.