Views on the ground: teaching and clinical assessors’ views on vocational training for healthcare assistants in Ireland


  • Hugh P McKenna BSc, DipN, Adv Dip Ed, DPhil, RGN, RMN, RNT, FRCSI,

  • Sinead Keeney BA, MRes,

  • Felicity Hasson MSc, PG

Felicity Hasson
Research Fellow
Institute of Nursing Research
University of Ulster
Shore Road
Newtownabbey BT37 0QB
Northern Ireland
Telephone: 02890 366895


Aim and objectives.  This paper reports the views of teaching staff and clinical assessors on their experience of programme delivery and assessment.

Background.  In 2001, the Irish Department of Health and Children developed a vocational training programme for healthcare assistants. This programme was piloted nationally across 14 hospital and community sites. Teaching staff and clinical assessors at each site delivered the programme.

Method.  One-to-one semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 16 clinical staff and 26 teaching staff. With consent, all interviews were tape-recorded, from which the transcripts were subject to content analysis.

Results.  A lack of experience and preparation among teaching staff and clinical assessors was evident. The staff's commitment to their role on the programme while maintaining their normal duties caused frustration and uncertainty. Not withstanding, the value of the programme in terms of increased motivation, satisfaction and knowledge of healthcare assistants and the impact on care delivery, was recognized by respondents.

Conclusions.  This programme represents the provision of a national standard training programme for healthcare assistants. It provides an insight into the delivery of such a programme and the educational and training needs of healthcare assistants through the views of staff that taught and assessed on it.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Findings suggest that the development and implementation of a national training programme for healthcare assistants is achievable.