Personal care assistants are caregivers who provide aid to individuals who are unable to care for themselves. Although no formal education is required, there are certification and training programs available.
Personal care assistants (PCAs) serve the needs of those who are ill, elderly or otherwise in need of assistance with daily tasks. While no formal education is required to enter into this position, training may be found through the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, which offers voluntary certification. For those hired without medical experience, on-the-job training is very common in this career.
|Required Education||None mandatory; on-the-job training provided by the employer; optional training programs available|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)*||36% for personal care aides|
|Median Salary (2018)*||$24,020 for personal care aides|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Personal Care Assistant Overview
Personal care assistants (PCAs) help disabled, chronically ill, elderly and cognitively challenged people. In many cases, they offer their services in clients' homes, but they may also provide their services in hospices or outside of the home to keep clients involved in community activities. Their presence is often required when elderly or physically or mentally disabled clients need more help than their family or friends are able to sustain on their own.
Personal care assistants offer services based on the specific needs of their clients, so their daily tasks vary. Some may do minor housework tasks such as laundry, food shopping and meal preparation. In many cases, aides will help clients into and out of bed, dress and undress, run errands, bathe and groom. Depending on the personal care attendants' specialty, he or she may also provide psychological support to his or her clients and instruction for families on nutrition and medicine. Other tasks that aides perform are emptying bedpans, changing soiled bed linens and caring for disoriented patients.
Personal care assistants are not subject to specific educational requirements. They are not required to have a high school diploma. They do train under registered nurses, experienced caregivers or supervisors on how to take care of clients. An employer may train a personal care assistant to perform jobs in a specific way and to undergo a competency evaluation.
Personal care assistants also have the option to enter into training programs through the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, which certifies that the assistant has met industry standards. Many certification programs involve 40-75 hours of formal training, after which an observing registered nurse assesses the personal care attendant's capability in 17 competency skills.
Courses may include topics on death and dying, gerontology and physical and developmental disabilities. Some of the skills students gain from these programs are blood pressure, temperature and pulse rate monitoring, emergency medical response, communicable disease control, medication administration and infection management. They also gain knowledge in basic first aid and CPR. Client-specific learning topics may include bathing and grooming, cooking special diets and sanitary housekeeping.
Personal care assistants help those who need assistance with daily living activities, which can include assistance with self-care, housekeeping, and transportation. No formal education is required to become a personal care assistant, but training typically occurs on the job.
Understanding how the profession works, and knowing the expected job growth and annual median wage, can help you decide if this career is the path you want to take.