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What is a Patient Care Assistant?


On the front lines of healthcare stand patient care assistants. Whether preventing painful bedsores in immobilized patients by repositioning them or delivering critical lab reports to nurses in residential care facilities, patient care assistants play a crucial role within healthcare teams. They improve patient safety, help ensure patients receive required treatments and provide services that protect their patients’ dignity.


Those inspired to give compassionate care to patients as they recover from illnesses and strive to achieve greater independence can benefit from learning about the patient care assistant’s salary and role. With the right education, aspiring patient care assistants can thrive in their careers and set themselves up for advancement.

What Do Patient Care Assistants Do?

Patient care assistants deliver basic medical care under the guidance of healthcare professionals, such as registered nurses (RNs) and doctors. This type of care ranges from taking a patient’s vital signs after surgery to changing bandages.


Patient care assistants support the work of other healthcare professionals. For instance, patient care assistants may be responsible for sterilizing instruments before an examination, or they may be expected to file paperwork and schedule follow-up appointments.


Additionally, since patient care assistants regularly interact with patients one-on-one, these professionals may report details about a patient’s condition to clinicians. This could include everything from mentioning behavioral changes observed in a patient to noting and reporting abnormalities in a patient’s coloring that might indicate a health problem.


Patients and their families rely on patient care assistants as well. Beyond delivering basic medical care and serving as the eyes and ears of care for clinical teams, patient care assistants help patients perform hygienic and personal tasks. For instance, patient care assistants may assist patients with bathing, using the bathroom, hair brushing, and more.


Frequently, patient care assistants offer patients comfort and emotional support. With words of encouragement and understanding, they can bring solace to the weary and help lift a patient’s spirits.

Patient Care Assistant Job Duties

Patient care assistants work with a variety of clients, including children, adolescents, young adults, and the elderly. Though the scope of work for these professionals is more limited than that of nurses, patient care assistants still perform a range of duties, keeping their jobs engaging and rewarding.


Duties may include:

  • Escorting patients from waiting rooms to exam rooms
  • Taking vital signs, such as temperature and blood pressure, and charting results in each patient’s medical record
  • Cleaning/sanitizing work areas
  • Restocking exam room supplies, such as cotton balls, rubber gloves, and tongue depressors
  • Helping patients with basic grooming tasks, such as bathing and combing their hair
  • Assisting patients that need help standing and/or walking
  • Collecting lab specimens, such as urine samples, as needed

Possible Work Settings for Patient Care Assistants

Typically, professionals in the field work full-time and follow a Monday-Friday schedule. However, patient care assistants employed at facilities that provide 24-hour care may also need to work nights, weekends, and holidays.


Work settings for patient care assistants can vary. The most common places include:

  • Doctor’s offices
  • Community care clinics
  • Rehab centers
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Hospice centers
  • Hospitals

Qualifications to Become a Patient Care Assistant

Education requirements for patient care assistants may vary among healthcare organizations. Across the board, however, applicants need to have at least a high school diploma and complete on-the-job training. Many organizations also require patient care assistants to complete accredited training programs that teach basic nursing skills and include a supervised clinical component.


Job duties typically align with a patient care assistant’s level of education. Candidates who hold degrees, such as an RN to BSN online, will likely enjoy the best job prospects. Patient care assistants with such degrees are well-positioned to advance into nursing careers because they possess the required schooling, alongside the experience of working with a range of patients in diverse settings.


For this reason, individuals considering a patient care assistant career may want to acquaint themselves with the various nursing roles and their associated degrees. Getting familiar with the RN versus BSN versus MSN acronyms commonly used in nursing, for instance, can make it easier to navigate potential educational paths.


Similarly, learning the differences between nurse practitioner (NP) versus RN degree requirements can help individuals make choices that support growth in their careers.

Fundamental Skills for Patient Care Assistants

Patients and their families may feel anxious or vulnerable as they contend with various health conditions or unfamiliar clinical environments. With comforting words and personalized care, patient care assistants can bring solace and physical ease to the people they care for.


By staying alert to their patient’s needs and medical requirements, patient care assistants help ensure patients receive the highest standard of care. This, however, requires key skills and competencies.


These include:

  • Patient care assistants need to communicate key medical information to other healthcare professionals — as well as to patients and their families — throughout their shifts. They need to listen attentively to patients explaining their symptoms and then accurately convey this information to nurses or other staff. Additionally, patient care assistants should actively listen to information presented to them by doctors and nurses, follow their instructions, and ask appropriate questions for clarification when needed.
  • Patient care assistants often serve as primary caregivers to patients. By demonstrating compassion and empathy, patient care assistants help lift patients’ spirits and provide them with much-needed comfort. Compassion can also help patient care assistants better anticipate their patients’ needs.
  • Interpersonal relations. Interacting with a range of people, from physicians and nurses to patients’ family members, calls for patience and emotional intelligence. Patient care assistants work with individuals who may be stressed out or in pain. By keeping a calm and empathetic demeanor, patient care assistants can best support their patients and contribute effectively to healthcare teams.
  • Problem-solving. Patient care assistants manage a host of responsibilities that they need to prioritize according to their patients’ needs. By paying close attention to details and using their observations to decide on a course of action, patient care assistants help identify existing and potential health problems. For instance, when changing a bandage, patient care assistants need to note any signs of potential infection and inform the appropriate member of their healthcare team.

Patient Care Assistant Salary Ranges

PayScale data as of November 2022 show the median salary for patient care assistants is about $37,000 a year. Annual wages can range from $24,000 to $51,000. Several factors influence what patient care assistants earn, including a position’s location and an applicant’s years of experience within the field. Whether applicants have completed an advanced degree can also impact their earnings.

Patient Care Assistant Job Outlook and Growth

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects robust growth across all healthcare occupations, which includes patient care assistants. In fact, the BLS expects healthcare roles to grow 13% between 2021 and 2031. This significantly outpaces the 5% average growth rate forecasted for all occupations. A number of factors can account for this increase, including the aging baby boomer population, which is expected to drive demand for these workers.

Become a Patient Care Assistant and Make a Difference in the Lives of Others

Providing top-notch healthcare starts with meeting a patient’s most basic needs. Patient care assistants do just that with compassion and skill. Those inspired to provide thoughtful care to patients — alongside key assistance to nurses and other clinicians — should explore the patient care assistant salary and role. Discover how Maryville University’s RN to BSN online degree helps prepare aspiring healthcare professionals to advance their careers.


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