Patient Care Assistant Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
A patient care assistant provides basic medical services for patients in hospitals and long-term health care facilities. Read on to examine the job description, requirements, and salary information to see if becoming a patient care assistant is the right decision for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Patient Care Assistant

Patient care assistants, or nursing assistants as they are sometimes called, tend to patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities. They help patients perform activities of daily living and sometimes collect specimens and vital signs. Exploring the pros and cons of becoming a patient care assistant may help you determine if this is the right career path for you.

Pros of Being a Patient Care Assistant
Can work in various settings*
Get to help others and develop relationships with patients
Only requires 1-2 years of educational training*
Faster than average job growth (18% projected growth from 2014-2024)*

Cons of Being a Patient Care Assistant
Lower than average salary (mean annual salary of $26,250 in 2014)*
May be physically demanding
More on-the-job injuries than other occupations*
May be required to work evenings, weekends and holidays*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Duties and Responsibilities of a Patient Care Assistant

A patient care assistant is charged with taking vital signs and helping patients groom, bathe and perform daily activities. They also tend to patients in hospitals and nursing homes by preparing meals, assisting with mobility, and acting as a medical liaison. Patient care assistants are usually trained in phlebotomy, EKG and basic physical therapy.

Job Prospects and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) predicts that employment for patient care assistants will grow much faster than average, 18%, for other occupations from 2014-2024. As nurses and other healthcare professionals turn many routine tasks over to patient care assistants, there will be a great demand for certified professionals in this area of medical services. In May 2014, the BLS reported that nursing assistants earned an average annual salary of $26,250; however, assistants who worked in the federal executive branch earned the most at $36,380, per the BLS. In order to enjoy the best job prospects, applicants for patient care assistant positions should have their completed certification prior to seeking open positions.

What Are the Requirements?

Patient care assistants must complete a program in a high school, local community or technical college. Programs last between one and two years, depending on the level of certification desired. Patient care assistants generally complete some on-the-job training to practice their skills. Some patient care assistants perform only minimal clinical tasks, while others conduct EKG's, draw blood and dress wounds. Patient care assistants, or nursing assistants, must pass a state competency exam and receive some level of certification that demonstrates their clinical skills.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Job requirements may include similar specifications to the following, which are taken from Monster.com:

  • A healthcare company in Texas was looking for applicants who have successfully completed a Nursing Assistant training program or who have provided documented enrollment in a nursing program, including completion of a nursing fundamentals course. The employer stated that applicants may substitute certification as an EMT.
  • A Florida medical center sought an individual who had completed a nursing assistant program through a Florida vocational school. Heart saver certification was desirable.

How to Stand Out

Certification

There are several options for improving your chances of acquiring a position as a patient care assistant. Check to see if patient care or nursing assistants are allowed to dispense medication in your state. If dispensing medication is permitted in your state, you can earn extra credentials and become a Certified Medication Assistant (CMA) to help improve your resume.

If you'd like to specialize in working with a particular population, you can become certified in this specialty area. For example, if you'd like to work with older adults, you can become certified in geriatrics.

Alternative Career Paths

Occupational Therapy Assistants

If you enjoy helping people perform activities of daily living, but would like to earn a higher salary, you may consider becoming an occupational therapy assistant. Occupational therapy assistants work under occupational therapists and help patients recover and improve skills needed for daily living by conducting therapy activities. Becoming an occupational therapy assistant only requires an associate's degree from an accredited program at a community college or technical school. In 2014, the BLS reported an average annual salary of $57,260 for occupational therapy assistants.

Registered Nurse

If you'd like to be involved in the clinical care of patients, you may want to explore becoming a registered nurse (RN). RNs perform medical tests, consult with medical professionals, administer medication and develop treatment plans for patients. Becoming a nurse could require 2-4 years of education, depending if you'd like to obtain an associate's or a bachelor's degree in nursing. Coursework consists of science courses like anatomy, biology and chemistry. To practice as a registered nurse, you must pass a state exam and become licensed. The BLS reported an average annual salary of $69,790 for RNs in 2014.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • Master of Science - DNP Path (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
    Master's
      • Accelerated BSN to MSN
      • Master of Science - DNP Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Master of Science in Nursing - Adult - Gerontology Practitioner
      • M.S. in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner
      • MS in Nursing
      • Master of Science - DNP Adult Nurse Practitioner
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
      • Bachelor: Health Science
      • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
    Certificate
      • Family Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate
      • Nurse Educator Graduate Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • RN to BSN
    Associate's
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Medical Assisting
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice with an Emphasis in Educational Leadership
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    Master's
      • MBA and MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (dual degree)
      • MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems
      • MBA and MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (Bridge)
      • M.S. in Nursing: Nursing Education
      • MBA: Health Systems Management
      • MS in Health Care Administration
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Nursing (Registered Nurse - R.N. to BSN)
      • BS in Health Care Administration
      • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Argosy University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Nursing (BSN)
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Education Specialist - Nursing Education
    Master's
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    8. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    9. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    10. University of Saint Mary

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSN: Nursing Administrator Specialization
      • MBA Health Care Management Concentration
      • MSN: Nursing Educator Specialization
    Bachelor's
      • RN-BSN Degree

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • Accelerated BSN to MSN
  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
  • Family Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate

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George Mason University

  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

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Keiser University

  • RN to BSN
  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

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Herzing University

  • MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
  • Diploma: Medical Assisting

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Grand Canyon University

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  • MBA and MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (dual degree)
  • BS in Nursing (Registered Nurse - R.N. to BSN)

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Argosy University

  • Nursing (BSN)

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Northcentral University

  • Education Specialist - Nursing Education
  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration

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University of Delaware

  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Concentration

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