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Personal Care Aides are healthcare workers that assist individuals who need help in managing the activities of daily living. These professional caregivers may also be called Personal Care Assistants, Personal Care Attendants or PCAs in the workplace.
Personal Care Aides work in a variety of settings, including skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, group homes, residential centers, assisted living facilities and private homes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) about 2 million Personal Care Aides held jobs in 2016 and their largest employers were as follows:
Personal Care Aides assist senior citizens and individuals with disabilities, chronic health problems, cognitive impairments, and a host of other challenging issues. They work under the supervision of nurses and/or other healthcare professionals. Duties these caregivers commonly perform as they fulfill this role include:
According to BLS, job prospects for Personal Care Aides are expected to be excellent over the coming years. The agency projects a job growth rate of 37 percent for this occupation between 2016 and 2026. This rate of employment growth is much faster than the average for all occupations. BLS bases these projections on a number of factors that are expected to drive an increased demand for the services of Personal Care Aides.
The aging of the large Baby-Boom generation is one of those factors. According to BLS, the growing number of senior citizens throughout the population as this generation ages is expected to cause a continued increase in demand for Personal Care Aides.
Another factor that is expected to lead to rising demand for Personal Care Aides is that an increasing number of seniors and people with disabilities are choosing home care as an alternative to long term care facilities. Families who manage the care of elderly adults are also expected to choose to keep aging family members at home more often, rather than in nursing homes. Additionally, healthcare providers are expected to steer more patients towards home-based services when appropriate in an effort to contain healthcare costs.
People who wish to pursue Personal Care Aide positions need to hold a high school diploma or equivalent. Those who plan to seek employment in certified home health agencies or hospice organizations typically must complete a formal education program – often non-degree programs offered by many colleges and vocational schools – and pass a competency exam to become certified or licensed as a Personal Care Aide.
Enrollment in the Medical Assisting associate degree program at Bryant & Stratton College is one path towards becoming qualified to work as a Personal Care Aide. In some states, students working towards a Medical Assisting associate degree may qualify to take the competency exam for Personal Care Aide certification/ licensure based on their studies in that program. Many students take advantage of that opportunity as a means of gaining practical experience in the healthcare field and earning a paycheck as they work to earn their Medical Assistant credentials.
While some states require just a high school diploma and on the job training to become a Personal Care Aide, others require that these workers be state certified or licensed in order to work in the field. You can find out exactly what the requirements are in your state by contacting the state health board. Personal Care Aides who work for agencies or facilities that receive reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid must be certified. In general, becoming certified or licensed as a Personal Care Aide means meeting minimum training standards and passing an exam.
Some states and many employers require candidates for Personal Care Aide positions to pass criminal background checks as a condition of employment. Some employers may also require that candidates pass drug screening tests. Many employers require new hires to undergo a period of on the job training as a condition of continued employment.
Many states and some employers require that applicants for Personal Care Aide positions be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Becoming certified in CPR means completing a formal training course with the American Red Cross or another certification organization. CPR training may be included in Personal Care Aide education courses. CPR certificates must be renewed periodically – typically every two years – in order to retain certification status.
For more insights into a career as a Personal Care Aide or in the Medical Assisting field, please visit the Healthcare Degrees section of the Bryant & Stratton College blog. Exploring the blog and our website can provide lots of valuable information and insights on the many career opportunities available in the fast-growing healthcare field, as well as in any other occupational field you may be considering as you develop your best plan for a successful and satisfying future.