Health Care Worker (HCW) and Registered Nurse (RN): What’s the Difference?

There’s a common misconception that all health care professionals are the same, when, in fact, each of them undertakes specialised training, contributing to a difference in their capability level, job scope, and service pricing. This article will help you understand the many differences between an HCW and an RN.

As you care for your loved ones, you will most likely be supported by many different home care professionals, each responsible for providing specific types of care and services. Here’s a review of two of the most common — and confusing — types of health care professionals: Health Care Workers (HCW) and Registered Nurses (RN).

Role of a Health Care Worker: 

Health Care Workers assist clients with personal care tasks, including bathing and dressing. They can also provide some basic healthcare-related services, such as measuring vital signs, administering medications, or assisting with medical equipment.

In Hong Kong, health care workers must be certified. To achieve certification, a health care worker must complete at least 300 hours of formal training through the government-approved “Health Worker Certificate” course provided by the Employees Retraining Board. In order to practice, the health care worker must pass the certification examination and be registered as a health worker at the Licensing Office of Residential Care Homes for the Elderly of the Social Welfare Department.

Role of a Registered Nurse:

In a home setting, registered nurses often serve as case managers, taking care of the planning and coordination of care, overseeing all aspects of the home care service that the client receives through the agency. Registered nurses can perform health assessments, develop care plans, provide nursing care, and supervise other members of the home care team, including enrolled nurses and health care workers.

A registered nurse should hold a Bachelor’s degree in nursing obtained from a 5-year tertiary education program. To practice as a registered nurse in Hong Kong, one must be registered or enrolled as a registered nurse with the Nursing Council of Hong Kong. 

Here’s a simple infographic to help you visualise the differences.

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