Patient Care Attendant: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Patient care attendants help patients who are unable to take care of themselves or perform regular daily routines. This can include taking care of the elderly, disabled, chronically ill, or otherwise impaired. Training is necessary for this occupation and voluntary certification is available.

Personal care attendants have to meet health requirements and pass a criminal background check. A high school diploma and on-the-job training is sometimes all the is needed to begin a career as a personal care attendant, but some employers may require formal postsecondary training.

Job Description

There are different types of patient care attendants, including nursing assistants, nurse's aides, home health aides, geriatric aides, and hospital attendants. Some work in medical facilities, while others travel to patients' homes. Patient care attendants may work on a part-time or full-time basis depending on the needs of their clients. Weekends and evening shifts are typical, as is having a caseload of several different patients.

Job Duties

A patient care attendant helps patients with basic grooming and dressing needs, administers medication, and, when working in a patient's home, often attends to basic housekeeping duties which the patient cannot get to. Throughout these routine tasks, a patient care attendant keeps the patient company, keeping an eye out for any changes in the patient's physical, emotional, or mental condition. The patient care attendant communicates the status of the patient, including any changes, periodically, to a supervisor, case manager, or nurse.

Job Requirements

Patient care attendants should be compassionate, responsible, and comfortable working with people with various health issues and disabilities. There are no certification requirements; however, if an individual is employed with an organization that accepts reimbursement from Medicaid or Medicare, then a job training program must be completed. This job training requires at least 75 hours of coursework and 16 hours of supervised work experience.

A physical examination, health tests for tuberculosis and other diseases, and a criminal background check may be required for employment. Voluntary certification from the National Association for Home Care and Hospice can help individuals obtain employment.

Education for this position usually comes from on-the-job training with supervisors, experienced patient care attendants, and registered nurses. Workers receive training in housekeeping duties, emergency response procedures, safety techniques, and special patient care considerations. The exact length of the training varies based on the employer; an evaluation may be completed at the end of the training to ensure that the individual can properly perform the necessary work duties.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the employment of personal care aides is expected to grow by about 26% from 2014 to 2024, and home health aides can expect a 38% job increase in their field for the same decade. The BLS also predicts that nursing assistants and orderlies will see job opportunities increase by about 17% during the same time frame.

The median annual salary earned by home health aides was $21,920 according to a report published by the BLS in May 2015. The same source indicated that personal care aides earned a median of $20,980 in May 2015, while nursing assistants earned a median of $25,710 a year.

Personal care attendants assist individuals with routine tasks such as personal grooming and dressing, and may also administer medications, perform housecleaning and cooking tasks, and provide companionship while monitoring the patient's physical, emotional, or mental condition. The aging population is contributing to high job growth in this field.

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