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Patient Care Aide: Job Description, Salary and Career Info

Patient care aides require no formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and voluntary certification to see if this is the right career for you.

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A patient care aide is an entry-level position that does not require a postsecondary education. On-the-job training is given to help aides prepare for the numerous duties they may perform, such as checking blood pressure, patient observation, and feeding patients.

Essential Information

Patient care aide is one of many titles referring to a worker in a medical facility whose job is basic patient care. By assisting medical staff and taking responsibility for all of a patient's basic needs, the patient care aide is the first and most frequent provider of assistance for anyone undergoing medical treatment. Patient care aides can often start entry-level positions with nothing more than on-the-job training, but may acquire credentials in order to increase opportunities for advancement.

Required Education High school diploma
Other Requirements On-the-job training; credentials through the National Nurse Aid Assessment Program (voluntary)
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 18%
Average Salary (2015) $25,710

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Patient care aides--often referred to as nursing aides, nursing assistants, patient care assistants and various other titles--provide basic care to patients in hospitals or other medical facilities. They work under advisory from a nursing staff and usually have a great deal of direct contact with patients. According to the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants, aides working in long-term care facilities may be responsible for 80-90% of all personal care that a patient is provided (www.cna-network.org).

Patient care aides help feed, bathe and dress the medical patients in their charge. Depending on the patient's condition, the aide may assist with moving and transporting them; this may include helping them walk or assisting them with exercise and physical therapy. Aides answer patients' calls for assistance and help prepare them for surgery. They can also be responsible for tracking vital signs, checking blood pressure, temperature, nutritional intake and heart rate. They may collect specimens and assist in other medical procedures, as well as generally observing the patient's condition and reporting any changes to physicians and nursing staff. In addition, aides are usually responsible for changing linens, replacing bedpans and cleaning a patient's room.

Salary Info

As of May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists a median hourly wage of $12.36 for nursing assistants. This translates to a median annual salary of $25,710. In the lowest ten percent of the pay range, annual earnings are less than $19,390; the highest ten percent earns $36,890 or more in a year.

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Career Information

While some patient care aides make the transition to a higher level of medical service, such as a registered nurse, others remain in the aide capacity for a number of years. Often, the longevity of patient care aides helps them in their work, as their continued presence is comforting to patients and helps them to feel at ease when undergoing treatment.

Some states differentiate between various levels of patient care aide qualification. In Oklahoma, for example, patient care assistants with no experience begin at the lowest level, which consists mostly of on-site training and learning from co-workers who have been there longer. After a year, the patient care assistant is approved to perform the full range of duties involved in the job description. After three years of patient care experience, the aide is considered qualified to provide training to new assistants.

Additionally, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) administers a voluntary exam to assess the competency of nursing aides and provide a credential to demonstrate qualification. The National Nurse Aid Assessment Program (NNAAP) is available through the NCSBN in 19 states and Washington, D.C.

The NNAAP consists of a written or oral examination combined with a demonstration of relevant skills. Those who pass both parts of the exam are entered into the state nurse aide registry, which is used by employers to determine the full extent of a nurse aide's qualifications. As a result, patient care aides seeking to practice in states where the NNAAP is recognized should seriously consider taking the exam to increase their chances of employment.

Providing basic care to patients, a patient care aide supports the nursing staff at a hospital or other medical facility. While much of the job consists of direct contact with patients, a care aide is also responsible for other tasks, such as changing linens and replacing bedpans.

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