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Health Care Assistant

Kaiāwhina Tapuhi/​Kaimahi Atawhai

Alternative titles for this job

Health care assistants support nurses and care for people in private homes, hospitals, general practices or rest homes.


Health care assistants usually earn

$19-$25 per hour

Source: District Health Boards, New Zealand Nurses Organisation and Ministry of Social Development, 2019.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a health care assistant are good due to increasing demand for their services.


Pay for health care assistants varies depending on experience, where they work, and how many hours a week they work.

Health care assistants employed by a district health board

  • New health care assistants earn $19 an hour.
  • After one to three years' experience they earn between $21 and $22 an hour.
  • With four to five years' experience they earn $22 to $23 an hour.

 Support workers who provide care in people's homes

  • Support workers with up to eight years' experience or a Level 2 qualification earn between $21 and $22 an hour.
  • Those with over eight years' experience or a Level 3 or 4 qualification earn between $23 and $25 an hour.

On 1 July 2021, the rates above for support workers will rise by $1.00 to $1.50 an hour.

Home support workers (who work in private homes) work an average of 21 hours a week, according to E tū.

Sources: District Health Boards and New Zealand Nurses Organisation, 'Nursing and Midwifery Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA) 4 June 2018 – 31 July 2020', accessed September 2019; E tū, 'Let's Bring This Home', September 2019; and Ministry of Social Development, 'Factsheet: Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Agreement', July 2018.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Health care assistants may do some or all of the following:

  • help patients or clients wash, dress and eat
  • help with laundry, housework and shopping
  • make sure patients or clients take the correct medicine
  • help clients attend appointments
  • help patients rehabilitate in areas such as social skills and walking.

Those who work in hospitals and clinics may also:

  • prepare medical equipment and instruments
  • take electrocardiogram (ECG) readings, samples and fluid balances.

Skills and knowledge

Health care assistants need to have knowledge of:

  • patient care
  • the needs of the patients or clients they work with, such as elderly people, young people or people with disabilities
  • first aid, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • safe lifting techniques and how to use hoists.

They may also need to know about:

  • hospital procedures
  • health and safety procedures, including storage of dangerous goods.

Working conditions

Health care assistants:

  • may work shifts, including evenings and weekends (home support workers work during the day only)
  • work in clients' homes, and in hospitals, clinics, rest homes and nursing homes
  • may be exposed to diseases and body fluids
  • may travel locally to clients' homes.

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements to become a health care assistant.

However, employers usually prefer you to have, or work towards, a qualification such as:

  • New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing - Health Assistance (Level 3), to work in hospitals and rest homes
  • New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing - Support Work (Level 3), to provide care in private homes.

You may also need:

  • a first aid certificate
  • a driver's licence.

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.

Secondary education

No specific secondary education is required for this job, but English, maths and biology to at least NCEA Level 1 are useful.

Personal requirements

Health care assistants need to be:

  • patient and tolerant
  • practical, organised and responsible
  • friendly, helpful and compassionate
  • able to follow instructions
  • able to relate well to people from different cultures
  • skilled at listening and communicating
  • able to cope with stressful and emotional situations.

Useful experience

Useful experience for health care assistants includes:

  • work in rest homes, nursing homes and hospitals
  • work with families, the elderly or people with disabilities
  • work helping people, or customer service
  • first aid experience
  • cleaning and housekeeping.

Physical requirements

Health care assistants need to be reasonably fit, healthy and strong, with no back problems, as the work can be physically demanding.

Find out more about training

Careerforce ITO
0800 277 486 - -
New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO)
0800 283 848 - -
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

High demand for health care assistants

Although 55,000 people work as health care assistants, vacancies are common due to:

  • employers finding it hard to get staff
  • high worker turnover because of the stress of the role
  • a large and growing number of elderly people who need support that allows them to stay in their own home
  • the increasing need for health care assistants in hospitals due to a shortage of registered nurses
  • the ageing workforce – most health care assistants are between 55 and 64. 

Ageing population increases demand for workers

The healthcare, aged care and community and disability sector will need 16,000 extra workers by 2021, according to the Industry Training Federation.

Types of employers varied

Most health care assistants work for:

  • hospitals and nursing homes
  • private companies providing home care
  • specialist care providers, eg, for spinal injury patients
  • church and welfare-based trusts
  • home support services run by district health boards (DHBs).


  • E tū and PSA, 'Let's Bring This Home', September 2019, (
  • New Zealand Aged Care Association, 'Visa Reforms to Benefit Older Kiwis in Care', press release, 17 September 2019, (
  • New Zealand Nurses Organisation, 'Heath Care Assistants in General Practice and Accident and Medical Settings', accessed October 2019, (
  • Stats NZ, 'Population Projections Overview', 8 March 2017, (
  • Steer, E, product manager, Careerforce, interview, October 2019.
  • Wenman, E, 'Call for More Workers to Join Health and Wellbeing Sectors', 15 May 2018, (

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Health care assistants may progress into management or administration roles. With further training, they may progress to become enrolled or registered nurses, or phlebotomists (who collect blood samples).

Health care assistants can specialise in a number of roles, including:

Health Care Assistant
Health care assistants work to support nurses working with patients in aged residential care or medical practices.
Home and Community Support Worker
Home and community support workers help clients with bathing, dressing, eating, laundry and housework, in private homes.
Support Worker
Support workers work with people who have disabilities.
A smiling health care assistant wearing a smock bends down to offer a tray of healthy food to an elderly man sitting in an armchair in a house, with a walking stick beside him

Health care assistants may care for people who need help preparing their own food

Last updated 17 October 2019