Patient care assistants work in health care environments or provide home care services, generally under the supervision of a registered nurse. They help provide basic, direct care to patients, such as assisting with daily life activities, helping with transportation and helping patients maintain their cleanliness. A high school diploma or the equivalent is generally the only requirement to begin working in this rapidly growing field, with other training coming through supervised on-the-job experience.
Many vocational schools and community colleges offer patient care assistant training through nurse technician, patient care technician or personal care assistant/technician programs.
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.
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.
The BLS predicted that employment for personal care aides would grow by 49% between 2012 and 2022, while 48% growth was 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.