Patient Care Assistant Education Requirements and Career Info

A patient care assistant requires little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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The need for patient care assistants is rapidly growing. Read this article for information about experience and education requirements, salary, projected job growth, and the daily roles and responsibilities of people in this career.

Essential Information

Patient care assistants work in health care and home environments, generally under the supervision of a registered nurse. They help provide basic, direct care to patients, such as assisting with daily life activities, and helping with transportation and cleanliness. A high school diploma or equivalent is generally the only requirement to begin working in this rapidly growing field, with other training coming through supervised on-the-job experience. However, a few employers may require a certified nurse assistant (CNA) credential, and others may mandate a competency examination.

Required Education High school diploma or GED; formal training programs available
Other Requirements On-the-job training; certification sometimes required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 26% for personal care aides; 38% for home health aides
Median Salary (2015)* $20,980 for personal care aides; $21,920 for home health aides

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

Education Requirements

Many vocational schools and community colleges offer patient care assistant training through nurse technician, patient care technician or personal care assistant/technician programs. Some programs may require that an individual be a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Certified Home Health Aide prior to admission, while others may only require a high school diploma or GED equivalent.

These programs focus on preparing graduates to work in homes, hospitals, general surgery units and nursing homes. Training generally includes lab work, lectures and clinical rotations, as well as studies in pre- and post-operative care, anatomy, nutrition and physiology. Medical assistant training programs provide instruction in subjects like medical terminology, pharmacology, lab procedures and physiology. Some of these patient care assistant programs prepare graduates to pursue the CNA credential or take other certification exams.

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Career Information

Patient care assistants perform a number of tasks, such as taking vital signs, assisting with daily living activities, observing patients and charting changes in their health or behavior, escorting patients and obtaining lab specimens. They may work in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics or other health care settings.

They are supervised by a registered nurse or other medical professional, but usually provide direct care to patients. Assistants who work in a hospital, nursing home or other medical facility may perform administrative tasks in addition to their clinical duties and be required to hold the CNA credential.

Personal care assistants may also be referred to as personal care aides or home health aides. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that there are not any certification or licensure requirement for these aides, and many receive on-the-job training. Some may be required to pass a competency test prior to working.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The BLS predicts that employment for personal care aides will grow by 26% between 2014 and 2024, while 38% growth is expected for home health aides. Both of these figures represent much faster growth than in most other job sectors. During this time, a growing elderly population and the desire for in-home care should be the primary drivers of employment. The median salary for personal care aides in 2015 was $20,980, while home health aides made a median salary of $21,920 per year.

The overall term that includes both personal care aides and home health aides is 'patient care assistant'. Salaries and projected job growth for these two jobs vary slightly, but both fields are expected to grow very quickly in the next ten years. Educational requirements can be completed at the college or community college level, and some supervised training is also usually necessary.

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