Patient care assistants provide support, comfort and basic medical care in a variety of settings. If you’re looking for a rewarding job in the growing healthcare field that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree, you may wish to train for this exciting profession. Becoming a patient care assistant entails enrolling in a state-approved patient care assistant program that offers comprehensive clinical instruction and hands-on practice. Such courses of study are found at community colleges, technical schools and vocational institutes across the country

Patient Care Assistant Job Description

Patient care assistants, also called patient care associates or technicians, enjoy helping patients with the tasks of daily living such as getting dressed, grooming, hygiene and eating meals. Under supervision of a licensed nurse, they also perform basic nursing procedures that may include taking vital signs, administering medication, collecting specimens, drawing blood samples and performing electrocardiograms.

Attention to detail is important in observing changes in the patient’s eating, fluid output or behavior that must be reported to other members of the medical team caring for the patient. In a clinic setting, they may explain diagnostic imaging procedures, for example, and answer questions to reduce patient anxiety.

Patient Care Assistant Education Requirements

Programs of study leading to a patient assistant career range from a short certificate of completion to a two-year associate degree. For example, the Top Knowledge Healthcare Institute of Maryland offers a 7-week patient care technician training certificate course open to Maryland certified nursing assistants (CNAs) with a high school diploma or GED. Students practice medical procedures such as catheter insertion, venipuncture, glucose checks and electrocardiograms.

At schools like St. Paul College, in Minnesota, students can earn a 60-credit associate degree that prepares them for patient care associate jobs. Along with general education requirements, the curriculum includes subjects like medical terminology, anatomy, physiology and medical care assistant skills practiced in clinical settings.

Patient Care Assistant Certifications

You will need to earn a certified nursing assistant (CNA) credential to work in certain settings such as long-term care facilities. Certification requires passing scores on a state licensing test or the National Nurse Aid Assessment Program exam used by 17 states and the District of Columbia to assess basic patient care knowledge and skills.

Being on your state’s CNA registry will help you qualify to become a nationally certified patient care technician once you finish your patient care assistant program, according to the National Healthcare Workers Association. The organization administers the Nationally Certified Multi-Skilled Patient Care Technician exam and certification process. Another patient care technician credentialing board, the National Healthcare Association, reports that 78 percent of employers prefer or require certification.

Patient Care Assistant Industry

Patient care assistants work in hospitals, medical clinics, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and at county agencies and home healthcare services. Jobs are plentiful and personally gratifying, but physically demanding. You can expect to be on your feet most of the day assisting patients. Strength and stamina is needed to reposition patients and transfer them from their bed to a wheelchair.

Years of Experience

Like most jobs, earnings increase with experience. Patient care technicians earned an average salary of ​$16.60​ per hour or ​$34,528​ per year, according to the job site Indeed in 2021. Entry-level salaries started at ​$15.46 per​ hour or ​$32,156​ per year and steadily increased. Those with three to five years of experience averaged ​$17.17​ per hour or ​$35,713​ per year. Earnings jumped to ​$19.24​ or ​$40,019​ per year after 10 years on the job.

Patient Care Assistant Growth Trend

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that demand for nursing assistant jobs will grow 8 percent between 2019 and 2029, much faster than other occupations. Patient care technicians working as medical care assistants mainly performing basic nursing care will have even better prospects. Jobs for medical assistants will increase an impressive 19 percent, the BLS notes. Demand will be driven in part by healthcare needs of the aging population.

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