Pros and Cons of a Personal Care Assistant Career
Personal care assistants care for sick, handicapped or dying patients. They also assistant clients with basic needs, such as eating and bathing. Weigh the pros and cons to decide if this career sounds appealing to you.
|Pros of Being a Personal Care Assistant|
|Large occupational growth (49% from 2012-2022)**|
|High school education or its equivalent sufficient for employment**|
|Flexible work hours and working conditions*|
|Highly social with patients and clients*|
|Cons of Being a Personal Care Assistant|
|Physically demanding with cases of work-related injuries**|
|Workers may be at risk of illness or infection from patients**|
|Some required training for Medicare and Medicaid work**|
Sources: *O*NET, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Essential Career Information
Job Description and Duties
According to the BLS, personal care assistants, also known as personal care aides, are health attendants who take care of patients in their homes. Unlike a nurse, a personal care assistant does not provide direct medical care. However, they help with a client's daily activities, such as housekeeping and cooking. According to the BLS, most assistants need to know about personal hygiene, nutrition and infection control; they must also know how to take vital signs.
Although you could find great joy in taking care the elderly and the sick, the emotional investment to care for many clients and possibly see them get sicker or die might be a burden. At the same time, patients who require physical help, such as getting out of bed, may pose a physical strain, causing back injuries. Some personal care assistants are also exposed to communicable or infectious diseases, which is a work hazard.
Job Prospects and Salary Info
Job growth for all personal care assistants is expected to grow by 49% across the 2012-2022 decade, according to the BLS. This is due in part to an aging baby boomer population, and the fact that home care is more affordable than hospital care. The BLS reported that the median salary for personal care assistants as about $20,000 in 2014.
Personal care assistants can get trained on the job through an employer, or they can attend a community college program. Some states may have additional guidelines for this career, so it's important to look into your region's requirements. For example, each state varies on how much training is needed for personal care assistants who work for Medicare or Medicaid patients.
What Do Employers Look for?
Potential employees should to be openly compassionate and caring about people. Many employers issue drug tests and physical examinations to make sure you are physically capable of taking care of a client. A driver's license is also needed to perform errands or take clients to appointments. The following job postings were available online as of April 2012:
- A Michigan personal care company needs an assistant who will work for elderly patients and clients with disabilities. They will hire untrained care assistants, but anyone with previous training and experience will earn a higher salary. The job requires a valid driver's license.
- A Pennsylvania home care company needs a personal care assistant to meet the growing demands of the aging population within a particular county. Experience is preferred for this job position, and candidates must not hold a criminal record.
- An Indiana home and hospice care company needs a personal care assistant to work in flexible shifts for clients. The job candidate must pass a drug test and criminal background check, in addition to a physical examination.
How to Beat the Competition
The National Association of Home Care and Hospice (NAHC) claims that credentialing offers candidates increased confidence and may help them attain jobs (www.nahc.org). To qualify for this certification, individuals can complete either 72 credit hours of NAHC courses or the equivalent amount of classes in personal care assistance that meet NAHC curriculum standards. After meeting the training guidelines, you need to pass an examination through the Home Care University.
Develop Related Skills
The interpersonal and time management skills of a personal care assistant are essential to the job. If you do not enroll in a form of formal training through a home care employer, you might want to take seminars, workshops or college courses that could help with these skills. For example, O*NET mentions that having an entrepreneurial drive and emotional sensitivity is beneficial (www.onetonline.org). Potential areas of study include health care, management and psychology.
Alternative Careers to Consider
If you want to help clients or patients, but want to work in a conventional work setting, you may be interested in a medial assistant job. Medical assistants provide clinical and administrative help to doctors' offices, according to the BLS. This could include filing patient history, making appointments, helping a doctor directly with medical needs, checking patient vitals or giving injections.
Medical assistants, like personal care assistants, need a high school diploma or its equivalent; they might need some vocational or community college training as well, depending on the employer. Employment growth for this job is projected to be 31% between 2010 and 2020, and the average annual wage calculated to around $30,000 as of 2011, according to the BLS.
Licensed Practical Nurse
If you want to provide more medical care to a patient, but within a general medical facility, you can become a licensed practical nurse. Licensed practical nurses attend to the needs of patients in clinics or hospitals, but they may also work in private homes. In addition, they administer medicine to the patient and record vitals for registered nurses. Technical schools or community colleges offer 1-year programs with the training a licensed practical nurse needs, according to the BLS. The same source state that job prospects for licensed practical nurses would see 22% employment growth between 2010 and 2020, and this role offers an average salary of around $42,000 as of 2011.