Patient care associates work in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation clinics and long-term care facilities. Some have government jobs in veterans' hospitals or correctional facilities. A patient care associate assists patients with daily living tasks and provides direct care, and she also may have some clerical duties. The job description varies depending on their place of employment, but most patient care associate tasks are similar among all facilities.
Patient care associates are part of a health care support team having the same duties as employees with job titles of patient care assistant, patient care technician and nursing assistant. People with similar qualifications typically can apply for any of these jobs, although many employers require a nursing assistant to hold certification from a professional organization, which involves completing a training program and passing an exam.
A patient care associate helps patients with bathing, washing their hair, getting dressed, and with eating if necessary. They help patients with moving to and from wheelchairs, and walking to exam or treatment rooms. They reposition bedridden patients to prevent skin sores, administer enemas and change bedpans. They measure urine and stool output, check blood sugar levels, check pulse rate and blood pressure and record food intake. Some patient care associates acquire training to do more technical tasks such as drawing blood and obtaining electrocardiograms.
Most patient care associates must have a high school diploma or equivalency. Some states allow high school students to work as patient care associates, and these workers typically can continue their jobs even if they do not complete their high school diploma. Many employers require patient care associates to complete training at a technical school or community college before hiring, in a program lasting one or two semesters. Some employers use the title of patient care associate for their nursing assistants and may require certified nursing assistant (CNA) status.
A patient care associate must be physically fit enough to stand for much of the workday, and to help lift and move patients. He needs excellent communication skills and the ability to get along with people of many different backgrounds. Work environments are generally clean, well-lighted and well-ventilated.
Salary and Benefits
Median starting salary for patient care associates as of 2010 is $8.60 to $11.80 per hour, according to PayScale. Those with one to four years of experience are earning median hourly pay of $9.50 to $13.30, and those with five to nine years of experience $11.30 to $15, or $23,500 to $31,200. Jobs may be full time or part time, and positions are available on all shifts. Some patient care associates work 12-hour shifts. Many work rotating weekends and holidays. Full-time patient care associates usually have a benefits package including health and life insurance, paid vacations and a 401k or other savings plan. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted an excellent employment outlook for nursing assistants and related occupations from 2008 to 2018. An increasing elderly population was expected to need long-term and other health care, and these jobs tend to have high turnover due to low pay rates, physical and emotional demands and limited advancement opportunities.
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