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What's the Job Description of a Patient Care Aide or Assistant?

Are you interested in working in healthcare? Do you want to help doctors and nurses treat patients, collect specimens, and perform routine medical procedures? If so, a career as a patient care aide or assistant may be right for you. Read on to find out about the duties and responsibilities, education requirements, licensing info, and salary statistics for patient care aides and assistants.

Career Overview

A patient care assistant is very similar to a nursing assistant. Both are responsible for providing basic care to hospital or nursing home patients. This may include routine daily activities, such as feeding, cleaning, and dressing patients, as well as basic medical procedures like administering medication, performing enemas, and providing massages. As a patient care aide, you will generally work under the direction and supervision of a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse.

As a patient care assistant, your responsibilities extend slightly beyond those of a typical nursing assistant. This may include performing more complex tasks related to electrocardiography (EKG), phlebotomy, and physical therapy. Additionally, you can work with less nursing supervision, which includes being able to work with patients in their own homes. There are three different levels of patient care assistants ranging from level one, which is concerned with basic routine duties, to level three, which involves more complex tasks and leadership responsibilities.

Important Facts About Patient Care Aides or Assistants

Job Outlook (2016-2026) 11% growth (for all nursing assistants)
Key Skills Attention to detail, customer focused, situational awareness, critical thinking, problem-solving, reading comprehension, clear communication
Work Environment Hospitals; nursing care facilities; retirement communities; home healthcare services; government agencies
Similar Occupations Licensed practical nurses; licensed vocational nurses; medical assistants; registered nurses

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

The minimum education needed to become a patient care assistant is a high school diploma or GED. You may undertake a training program while still in high school, which prepares you for an entry-level position upon graduation. Alternatively, you may seek postsecondary education after high school in the form of a certificate program.

A certificate program for patient care assistants is typically comparable to a nursing assistant certificate in that they both cover basic medical topics and healthcare-related skills. You learn how to perform tasks such as measuring and recording vital signs, helping patients perform daily activities, and dealing with emergency medical situations; however, the patient care assistant certificate usually includes additional instruction in areas like pre- and post-operative care, diet therapy, EKGs, phlebotomy, and physical therapy. Some schools format the patient care assistant certificate program as a continuation of a nursing assistant program, but some schools offer it as a stand-alone program.

Certification

Nursing homes require that all patient care assistants be certified. Some hospitals and other healthcare facilities may also require certification. You can become a certified nurse aide by taking a state-specific licensing exam, or you may take the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) exam; however, the NNAAP exam is only considered valid in 25 states or U.S. territories.

Salary Statistics

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), the average annual salary for nursing assistants working in nursing care facilities as of May 2018 was $28,560, while those working in general hospitals earned $31,540 on average. Scientific research and development services reported the highest mean salary for this occupation at $41,990 annually as of May 2018. The median salary, in general, for these professionals was $28,540 in the same reporting year.