Professional Development

“On this page we aim to provide you with the information you need to begin your career within health and social care. We will explain what is required before entering the sector and what skills and qualifications are needed to obtain the role you desire.”

You may not realize that health care assistants are in lots of areas of the health and social care sector from GP surgery’s, hospices and ambulances to care homes and out in the community. Understanding and choosing the right career path for you is vital to your professional development. To be led in an area that is of personal interest can encourage long term commitment and reap great rewards. 


Starting your journey

Nightingales Army aims to be the one training and governing body that qualifies and registers health care assistants as Nightingales before they enter the health and social care sector. We believe with a governed set of standard qualifications laid out and followed by all new care staff we can raise the standard of care provided, reduce accidents, lower hospital admissions, support the NHS and showcase to the government and public the professionalism of a health care assistant.

Currently there is no set entry level to work in a care setting, most companies will accept individuals with no previous knowledge or training and provide it on the job. This can be dangerous for both the staff member and the service user, putting both individuals at risk of harm. We believe those wanting to work in care should have the correct guidance and training before starting their role. This can be beneficial to all parties because the carer knows their rights before they begin so they can feel reassured they will not enter into a contract that is outside of their training or learning. The employer also knows that the staff member carries the relevant knowledge and information to start their job role safely and efficiently with confidence. We will advise you on what we believe is the best route to working your way up your career ladder to your chosen role or area.

You can gain a care certificate online but we do not advise to do this as you loose out on vital training and guidance you would receive if in a learning environment with trainers. Most colleges offer a health and social care course that may offer a variety of NVQs, which can help you begin your journey, make an inquiry at your local college to find out what they can offer. There is no hands on training you can currently have. 

For many of you, you would have already had a variety of training from employees and external trainers, in house e-learning and more.  Majority of care providers expect you to complete a care certificate, more information on this below.

Health care assistant job roles

There are many areas a health care assistant is required within the sector and community. All roles differ slightly, in their working environment and team structure. You may find you prefer working in the hospital or with individuals living with learning difficulties. We encourage you to research the different job roles available to you.

What qualifications do I need?


You will require: 4 GCSEs at grades 9– 3 (A*– D), including English Language and Maths – one of English Language or Maths must be grade 9– 4 (A*– C). Functional Skills Level 1 can be used as equivalent to GCSE grade 3 (D) and Functional Skills Level 2 can be used as equivalent to GCSE grade 4 (C) or above.

To start a career within health and social care Nightingales Army recommends having, good to high level Math and English grade. Both Math and English are required daily within the care home. Predominantly those living and working within care homes in the UK speak, read, write and understand English. Care plans and other documentation are recorded in English and require clear legible writing. Medication, fluid intake and output, requires math knowledge. If you have not achieved a Math or English grade and you are considering a higher level of education we recommend securing your grades before starting any course. To gain the equivalent grades to the requirements you will have to take an exam along side your chosen Diploma or NVQ. This can be extremely difficult and increases your work and study load.

Based on the level of your grades and the area and position you wish to progress to you will have the option to start a level 2 diploma or level 3 diploma in health and social care. 

A level 2 diploma will suit you if you are new to health and social care, a level 2 diploma can begin your journey towards a career within health and social care or you may be new to the role and currently under supervision or induction and you are looking to improve your knowledge and progress in your role with the opportunity to take on new responsibility.

The level 2 diploma consists of 9 mandatory units. And a selection of optional units which are chose by your employer or tutor based on the area and role you wish to progress into, this can include additional knowledge of Dementia, Learning difficulties and End of lie:

-Introduction to communication in health, social care or children’s and young people’s settings
-Introduction to personal development in health, social care or children’s and young people’s settings
-Introduction to equality and inclusion in health, social care or children’s and young people’s settings
Principles of safeguarding and protection in health and social care
-The role of the health and social care worker
-Implement person-centred approaches in health and social care
-Contribute to health and safety in health and social care
-Handle information in health and social care settings
-Introduction to duty of care in health, social care or children’s and young people’s settings.

The level 3 diploma is great for those who are more established in their role. You may already have a level 2 diploma in health and social care are working unsupervised and wish to take on a higher position with greater responsibilities. There are two pathways available with the level 3 diploma, Adult social care and Young people and children. We will be focusing on Adult social care here if you wish to learn more about young person and child care click here

The level 3 diploma consists of 9 mandatory units. And a selection of optional units which are chosen by your employer based on your job role and responsibilities, such as: medication, advanced planning, and infection control.

-Principles of safeguarding and protection in health and social care
-The role of the health and social care worker
-Promote person-centred approaches in health and social care
-Promote and implement health and safety in health and social care
-Promote good practice in handling information in health and social care settings
-Promote communication in health, social care or children’s and young people’s settings
-Engage in personal development in health, social care or children’s and young people’s settings
-Promote equality and inclusion in health, social care settings
-Principles for implementing duty of care in health, social care

To see City and Guilds list of diploma qualifications click here.

On completion of diploma level 3 you can now move onto a senior or team leader position. Where you will be able to manage the floor, run the shifts, administer medication, request doctors appointments, speak to and document all professional contacts, allocate staff to the floor, support the staff, deal with quierys, emergency’s and accidents. Your new position will develop your skills and knowledge in your role which you can put towards your professional development plan to further progress in your career towards a nurse or nursing associate. 

Care Certificate

The Care Certificate replaced the National Minimum Training Standards (NMTS) and the Common Induction Standards (CIS) and provides the framework for these within Health and Social Care. As an employee you must ensure you complete the care certificate within the first 12 weeks of starting your first new role in health and social care. 

The Care Certificate is not accredited as a qualification and we often find companies will not accept new employees with a completed care certificate from their previous employer. The new staff member, will be asked to resit the care certificates 15 modules in their own time. Even if they have a certificate in place. We find this to be extremely counterproductive and discriminative of the care staff who have already completed this work previously, some may refuse all together. The outcome of this is, a reduced effort overall given by the care staff, feeling as if their work is already undervalued and disregarded as not good enough by their new employer. For this to happen at the very beginning of the working relationship lays the pathway for a commitment return from the staff member of a very low standard and assumption that the employer does not consider that individual a valued member of the team.

We advise all care providers and employers to give new employees the same equal opportunity and respect as the current retained employees, to use their previous training and care certificate as a portfolio of their knowledge and understanding of their job role. Refer to Skills for care for advice if unsure on the current requirements for the care certificate.

We believe the time, commitment and passion of a care assistants role wasted on resitting care certificates could be put back into the service provided for those in need of care improving the consistency of the services. Removing the duty from employers and governing the distribution of care certificates in a educational environment we can ensure care certificates are completed in a timely manner without the need for a resit in preparation for the individual to begin a career in care. We wish to standardize the care certificate and make it mandatory.

tax, forms, income

Nightingales Army have spoken to Skills for care directly in relation to Endorsement of the care certificate and how we can purpose to make the qualification recognized and mandatory. We aim to use the care certificate in our training (coming in the near future)

Watch Out:

Do not assume your employer will keep your training certificates on your behalf. You are entitled to all certificates of learning, training and qualifications earnt throughout your employment. It is your responsibility to retain these. Be sure to gain these from your employer on completion. 

Many care assistants report employers not providing certificates after they have left their position. Your certificates can help you prove your training and knowledge within your job role. They represent your training and can support your move to a new employer saving time and money.

Care Elderly Woman
Et call home. Tony Luciani Photograph. Subject to copyright

Professional Development Plan

As you progress in your training and education you will need a professional development plan:

 A professional development is a personal set of aims and objectives, what you want to achieve or where you want to go, in the short, medium or long-term in your career. A PDP is not just for those who are new to care. You can start a PDP at anytime, recording your achievements so far helps you reflect on your progress in your role, as well as setting out your aims, targets and goals to work towards in the future. It outlines what strengths you already have in those areas, what you need to change to achieve those goals, and what skills you need to improve in your areas of weakness. Here at Nightingales we aim to train, teach and guide you into your chosen job role and provide you with guidance on how to start your own PDP to begin your journey. Drafting a professional development plan is especially helpful during a job search. 

How To Write a Professional Development Plan (With Examples)

How to Make Your Goals Achievable stay SMARTTo make sure your goals are clear and reachable, each one should be:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable).
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
  • Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).

Professor Rubin also notes that the definition of the SMART acronym may need updating to reflect the importance of efficacy and feedback. However, some authors have expanded it to include extra focus areas; SMARTER, for example, includes Evaluated and Reviewed.”


Have an unanswered question? Contact us today and we will help you to find an answer.

Continuous learning

The health and social care sector is ever evolving, because of this a health care assistants own knowledge must continue to be refreshed, updated and renewed. This continuous input of learning means health care assistants are a wealth of indispensable knowledge. And invaluable to employers. 

Continuous learning can happen anywhere, it could be an article online about stoma bags, a lecture in college or a face to face with a friend or colleague. Reflection is a big part of learning within the health and social care sector, health care assistants are encouraged to reflect on a situation and ask “could I have handled that better?” “what could have been done differently?”

Through an NVQ you will be asked to do reflective practice, to find resources independently and explain how it supports you in your job role, we advise you start this now to support your own learning and knowledge of the health and social care sector. NVQs and external learning all contribute to your PDP and overall personal growth within your job role, this can support your next stage in your career choice, maybe moving up the ladder to become a nurse, nursing associate, trainer or manger.

Watch out:

Because the job role is so varied and each home, employer, company and council in every district trains to their care ‘requirements.’ Health care professionals are provided with knowledge and information others miss out on. This causes flaws in the sector. With care provided differing from home to home, community to hospital. It has risks and it fails. In turn putting more pressure on the NHS.

Healthcare assistants (HCAs) are being expected to do the work of nurses without adequate training or proper supervision according to survey results published by UNISON. Nearly two thirds (63%) say they are being left to care for patients without enough support from doctors and nurses. The impact is that almost two in five (39%) of HCAs say they do not feel confident that those they are caring for are safe.

Care Elderly Woman
Et call home. Tony Luciani Photograph. Subject to copyright

NACAS- Professionalism & Parity in Social Care survey

We at nightingales Army consider health care assistants to be professionals, so does the National Association of Care And Support Workers.. 

“Between 30th July and August 7th, 2020, the National Association of Care & Support Workers conducted a short survey entitled Professionalism & Parity in Social Care. The principal aim of the survey was to gauge the level of understanding among care workers of what being a professional meant to them. It also asked questions around training and what they felt was meant about parity with our healthcare colleagues.”

Nightingales Army – We requested we could share the information the team at NACAS has gathered, with you, as we feel the questions and responses are relevant to what we are trying to raise awareness to, we wanted to promote the hard work already carried out by affiliated businesses, it is counterproductive to duplicate this work when it has been done already. Thank you to Paul at NACAS for brining this to our attention and allowing us to share it further. Click on the link for the survey and the photo to the right for NACAS website.

Click here for: NACAS – Survey Results Summary