Patient Care Associate Career Information and Requirements

Patient care associates provide bedside care to patients and assist them with daily living activities. They also serve as the ''eyes'' and ''ears'' of the nursing staff by providing vital patient information. Preparing for a patient care associate position usually involves completing a 2-year degree program.

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Working as a Patient Care Associate

Today's patient care associate expands the role of a traditional nursing assistant. Patient care associates are caregivers who hold a high level of technical training and often have more direct patient contact than any other member of a healthcare team.

Patient care associates work under the direct supervision of a registered nurse and assist with routine care. Their duties include assistance in turning and positioning, exercising, bathing, bed making, feeding, catheterization, obtaining specimens, CPR, first aid and checking vital signs. Patient care associates also observe their patient's mental, emotional and physical conditions and report any changes to the nursing staff. Some patient care associates receive additional training to provide electrocardiogram and phlebotomy (blood work) assistance, depending on the job requirements of the hiring institution.

Patient care associates may be employed by hospitals, nursing homes, doctor's offices, labs and clinics. This career requires long hours of standing and walking, a thorough understanding of emergency procedures and the ability to stay calm in stressful situations.

Employment Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), career opportunities for nursing assistants, including patient care associates, will increase by 19% from 2008-2018. This increase is due to a growing elderly population and the financial pressure on hospitals to discharge patients quickly, causing a rise in admissions to nursing care facilities.

Education Requirements

Most patient care associates earn an associate's degree from an accredited community or technical college. These programs typically consist of both classroom and laboratory training. Most programs require the prospective student to be at least 18 years old and possess a high school diploma or GED. Typical coursework may include basic nursing skills, medical terminology, math, nutrition, infection control, personal care skills and electrocardiogram and phlebotomy training.

Many hospitals and healthcare facilities offer training programs for patient care associates that are augmented by experience working under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN). Patient care associates are not required to be licensed, since the supervising RN completes any tasks that require a licensed professional. However, many patient care associates obtain certification as nursing assistants (CNAs) at the beginning of their training.

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