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Patient Care Associate Career Information and Requirements

Patient care associates require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and certification requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Essential Information

Patient care associates, often called certified nursing assistants (CNAs), provide bedside care to patients and assist them with daily living activities in addition to performing basic medical tasks, such as taking vital signs. Preparing for a patient care associate position usually involves completing a short nursing assistant program approved by the state, taking a state certification examination and learning during a period of on-the-job training.

Required EducationState-approved nursing assistant course plus on-the-job training
Other RequirementsMust pass state certification exam for licensure
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)*21% for nursing assistants
Median Salary (2013)* $24,890 for nursing assistants

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Working as a Patient Care Associate

Patient care associates are caregivers who hold technical training and often have more direct patient contact than any other member of a healthcare team. Patient care associates work under the direct supervision of a registered nurse and assist with routine care. Their duties include assistance in turning and positioning, exercising, bathing, bed making, feeding, catheterization, obtaining specimens, CPR, first aid and checking vital signs.

Patient care associates also observe their patient's mental, emotional and physical conditions and report any changes to the nursing staff. Some patient care associates receive additional training to provide electrocardiogram and phlebotomy (blood work) assistance, depending on the job requirements of the hiring institution.

Patient care associates may be employed by hospitals, nursing homes, doctor's offices, labs and clinics. This career requires long hours of standing and walking, a thorough understanding of emergency procedures and the ability to stay calm in stressful situations.

Employment Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, career opportunities for nursing assistants, including patient care associates, was predicted to increase by 21% from 2012-2022. This increase was expected to be primarily due to a growing elderly population, causing a rise in admissions to nursing care facilities.

Education Requirements

Most patient care associates learn through training programs offered by accredited community or technical colleges, high schools or nursing homes. These programs typically consist of both classroom and laboratory training as well as clinical experience. Most programs require the prospective student to be at least 18 years old and possess a high school diploma or GED. Typical coursework may include basic nursing skills, medical terminology, math, nutrition, infection control, personal care skills and electrocardiogram and phlebotomy training.

After completing the program, the student must pass a competency examination in order to be listed on the state registry of workers approved to be hired in nursing homes. Some states have additional qualifications, including criminal background checks.

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