Pros and Cons of Becoming a Personal Care Technician
Personal care technicians, or home health aides, assist people who are acutely ill, disabled, cognitively-impaired, or elderly. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of becoming a personal care technician.
|Pros of Becoming a Personal Care Technician|
|High employment growth (expected to increase as much as 49% from 2012-2022)*|
|Some positions require no certification*|
|Various shifts available as well as part- and full-time work*|
|With experience, can lead to other medical careers (nursing, social services) *|
|Cons of Becoming a Personal Care Technician|
|Low pay, averaging $10.20 per hour*|
|Work can be physically demanding when moving and supporting clients*|
|Possible exposure to diseases*|
|Tasks may be unpleasant; difficult clients can be stressful*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Personal care technicians typically work for a hospice, senior living community or certified home health agency. Government regulations typically require working directly under the supervision of a nurse. You'd keep track of the services that you provide and the progress and condition of your clients. You also might provide support with cleaning, laundry, shopping and cooking. Your other duties might involve helping your clients with bathing, grooming, dressing, eating, running errands and driving them to doctor's appointments. Basic health services such as administering medications and taking temperatures or pulse and respiration rates are also commonly performed. Sometimes home health aides receive special training to work with medical equipment such as ventilators.
Personal and home care aides tend to be more independent. Supervising managers, nurses, or social workers only check in occasionally. However, you'd be told when to visit each client and what to do for him or her during your visit. You might work with one to several clients each day. Sometimes a family does the hiring and assigns your duties.
If you're providing services in clients' homes, transportation is your responsibility, and you may spend a considerable amount of time traveling. You probably won't be paid for that time and will likely pay your own travel costs. Mechanical devices used for lifting clients often aren't as available in homes as they are in facilities. In their absence, you might have to be very careful to protect your back from injury while lifting.
Job Growth and Salary
Personal care aides could see a 49% increase in jobs from 2012-2022, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The aging baby boomers and the increase in the elderly were considerable factors in this growth. As of May 2014, the BLS reported that the national average salary for this occupation was $21,210 or just over $10.00 per hour. Some of the industries that paid above the mean wage at that time included state governments and elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools. States paying the most for these jobs in 2013 were North Dakota, Alaska, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
What Are the Requirements?
The BLS states that workers in this occupation typically have a high school diploma, although some employers require formal training. For example, the BLS noted that if you want to work for a hospice or certified home health agency that gets reimbursements from Medicaid or Medicare, you'll need some formal training and competency testing for certification. Some employers offer on-the-job training from nurses and supervisors without having to be certified.
If you're thinking of becoming any type of personal care technician, you'll need to be patient, compassionate, stable and responsible. Considering that you'll likely be moving patients, you should be physically fit. You'll have to prove that you're healthy, pass a criminal background check and show a good driving record.
What Do Employers Look For?
A sampling of job openings revealed that employers are looking for personal care technicians who are reliable, caring and respectful of the elderly. Employers usually seek experienced applicants. Check out the following excerpts from real job postings, in March 2012, to see what else was important to them:
- A personal care aide/home health aide trained to give personal care to the sick and disabled was desired at a home health agency in Pennsylvania. This agency preferred someone who had completed a formal home health aide or nursing assistant program and had one year's experience. This applicant should also be able to earn a score of at least 75% on the nursing assistant evaluation before employment. In addition, you'd need a valid driver's license and reliable, insured transportation. Yearly completion of at least 12 hours in-service training was also required.
- An assisted-living facility in Wisconsin was looking for a part-time personal care assistant. This employer preferred a C.N.A. (Certified Nursing Assistant) and health care experience. Although part-time, benefits were a possibility with this position.
- A New York assisted living facility advertised for a home health aide or personal care aide for various shifts. Certification as a home health aide was required. Experience in the field was preferred. Other requirements included fluent English, a desire to work with the elderly, strong organizational skills and professionalism. Grooming, changing linens and assisting with feeding would be necessary.
- A home healthcare agency in Nevada was looking for an experienced, full-time or part-time caregiver/personal care assistant. This candidate would help with housekeeping, errands, meals and transportation. Some requirements included a valid driver's license and auto insurance, current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification, clear criminal record, drug screening and reliable transportation. Applicants should be mature and trustworthy.
How to Stand Out in Your Field
If you provide care in both institutions and homes, you'll gain a wider range of experiences. Additionally, certification could be beneficial when employers are sifting through applications and resumes. To become certified through the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, you'll need at least 75 hours of training that teaches skills such as transferring techniques and taking vital signs as well as nutrition basics and infection control. There is also a written exam.
Other Careers to Consider
If you'd like to stay in the health field, but in an office setting, consider becoming a medical assistant. You could still put your high school diploma to good use while earning an even higher salary as a medical assistant. You won't have to physically care for patients, but you'll probably work in a physician's office and perform a variety of administrative and clinical tasks. The BLS projected a 31% increase in job opportunities from 2010-2010. The average annual pay in May 2011 was about $30,000, according to the BLS.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)
If you're willing to get some additional postsecondary training to earn an even higher wage, you might want to consider a career as an LPN or LVN, depending on the state in which you reside. You'd still provide basic nursing care to patients and would usually work under the direct supervision of doctors or registered nurses. Nurses need to complete a formal nursing program, take the National Council Licensure Examination and obtain national licensure by passing an examination. As of 2011, the average salary for this category was $42,000 and they were estimated to see a 22% increase in jobs from 2010-2020.