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Work Experience

HCA Interviews – What Will They Ask Me?

Recently, my temporary contract (from my redeployment) came to an end. My Trust and manager informed me that there would be permanent band 3 HCA posts being advertised shortly. In January, the posts were advertised on the NHS Jobs website. These were open to both internal and external applicants. They were also a different number of positions for all the wards, not only mine.

I filled in an application and sent it off. It took about 4 weeks before I was shortlisted and invited to interview.

There were some HR related issues and my interview was cancelled on the morning it was due and I was offered the permanent role by my manager instead. Which was very convenient for me.

However, I was able to find out some of the questions I would have been asked. All candidates that were going to be interviewed would have been asked the same questions and their interview performance assessed by people they did not know or work with. This meant there was a very real chance that if I had interviewed poorly, I might not have gotten the job I have been doing for the last 11 months. A really scary possibility and something my manager was not informed of either. (She was interviewing too but kept away from our interview panels. It would have been better for the ward managers to interview the candidates for their own wards, to know who would be a good fit for their team and patients.)

Regardless, HCA work is deemed the ‘gold-standard’ of work experience. It’s invaluable. It’s hands-on, patient care. It’s patient centred and the chance to work as part of a multi-disciplinary team. It really sets you up for all aspect of working within the NHS.

INTERVIEW:

Will I need one?

Yes, you will. Every band and role requires an interview.

Who will interview me?

This depends. For my interview it was a Clinical Lead Occupational Therapist, a Nurse Consultant from another ward, and a Ward Manager from another ward. Sometimes there will be HR involved or people who already do the job. Usually it will be a Ward Manager or Team Leader for the ward/ department.

Will the interview be in person or online?

I’ve know of interviews being held in both formats but mine was offered online via Microsoft Teams.

How long will it be?

Mine was scheduled for 30 minutes.

WHAT WILL THEY ASK/ LOOK FOR?

All the way through an NHS interview there will be questions that should allow you to showcase your skills and why you are best suited to the job.

WHY THIS ROLE/ DEMONSTRATE YOUR SKILLS?

For a HCA role, you’ll be prompted to draw on your precious experiences to demonstrate you’re a good fit and can do the job. For example: I had the experience from doing the job previously but they would still look for the aspects of being caring, compassionate and competent. Have you done a caring job before? Do you teach or mentor? All really transferable skills!

SCENARIO QUESTIONS:

So, the NHS/ Healthcare LOVE these. I find they’re often easier to answer as you can put yourself in that situation and explain what you’d do. You don’t have to necessarily find appropriate examples of previous skills.

A PATIENT ASKS FOR FOOD/ DRINK OUTSIDE OF THEIR MEAL TIMES, WHAT DO YOU DO?

This is quite a common question. A patient makes a request for something that you don’t know what to do with. How do you handle not knowing something?

Refer to their care plan. It’ll detail if they’re on any restrictions or special dietary requirements.

Check their food and fluid chart – they may have missed a meal or been a significant amount of time since they’ve had a drink/ low on hydration.

Most importantly – ask your team. You’re not completely on your own. The staff you work with may be experienced and able to guide you, that’s why we work as a team. It’s all about support. Always ask if you’re unsure. It may seem really simple such as someone is thirsty and wants a drink but I have previously worked with a patient who is on restricted fluids. They may also be restricted for medical reasons e.g. an upcoming appointment or due to medication.

YOU’RE IN AN MDT AND THE CLINICAL TEAM ARE MAKING A CHANGE TO A PATIENT’S CARE THAT YOU BELIEVE IS NOT IN THEIR BEST INTEREST. WHAT DO YOU DO?

Again, really common scenario. Linked with professional disagreement/ how to challenge professionally. You may be applying for a band 2 position or a band 8b, it doesn’t matter. Everyone should be able to work and communicate what is both safely and in the patient’s best interests.

You can professionally challenge ensuring you explain why you believe this is not in the best interests of the patient. Give examples, if you’ve worked with them before then that helps.

Suggest that this change be made temporarily or on a trial basis. This will show that you’re open to change but aren’t fixed to a permanent care plan change should it not work.

HOW DO YOU KNOW A PATIENT HAS DETERIORATED?

Classic!

Deterioration is anything below the ‘normal’ or baseline presentation of your patient. If you have worked with them for a long time, you’ll know what is normal and what is not. How do you tell if you don’t work with them? PHYSICAL OBSERVATIONS/ PHYSICAL HEALTH! Check their BP, Pulse, O2, temperature. Make sure it’s written up in their NEWS chart and any scoring escalate to the NIC. If significant scoring, the on-call doctor will review, if life threatening, always call 999.

Little signs such as a patient not looking well – colour being off, sleeping a lot, not quite themselves are all signs of deterioration. THIS IS HOW I ESCALATED AND HELPED TO DIAGNOSE THAT MY PATIENT HAD COVID LAST YEAR.

HOW DO MAINTAIN PRIVACY/ DIGNITY AND/OR CONFIDENTIALITY?

A very common question.

Privacy and dignity can be anything from washing/ bathing/ dressing/ changing clothes or dressings and ensuring the patient is covered or kept away from an audience.

If breaking bad news to a patient, ensure they’re in a private or quiet area so that they can process this and display their emotions without fear of people watching.

In mental health, incidents requiring physical restraint are usually handled by ensuring the patient, staff and peers are safe, if this occurs somewhere communal/ busy, clear out the area of non-essential staff and patients that don’t need to observe someone at their worst.

These are only a few examples and not a complete copy and paste of the questions I was due to be asked but very similar.

Be sure of your skills, show how much you care, know the priorities and values of the NHS. Most of all RELAX AND BE YOU! If you don’t know something, be honest but explain what your steps would be to solve the situation, despite not knowing/ how you would expand your knowledge for next time. 30 minutes might seem like a long time but it’s definitely not long enough to sell yourself completely!

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