Patient care assistants, sometimes called PCAs, are also known as home health aides, nurse assistants, certified nurse assistants and orderlies. PCAs work in a wide range of environments, from hospitals to nursing homes to community health care facilities to home care. The duties of PCAs vary based on the needs of their employer, but often include direct patient care, such as assisting with cleaning, dressing, meals and physical therapy.
Training for a PCA
In most states PCAs must be licensed to work in public health facilities. Training for PCAs typically involves 120 or more classroom hours, and usually at least some hours of hands-on clinical experience. A PCA or certified nurse assistant license requires taking and passing the National Nurse's Aide Assessment Program exam, or a similar exam offered by your state. A license is usually valid for one year and is renewable, often with a continuing education requirement.
Median Hourly Wage for PCAs in Nursing Homes
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PCAs working in nursing homes earned an average wage of $11.66 an hour as of May 2010. PCAs working in community care facilities for the elderly earned a little less, at $11.26 hour.
Mean Hourly Wage for PCAs
The overall mean hourly wage for PCAs in the U.S. as of May 2010 was $11.54. The middle 50 percent range of PCAs earned between $9.90 and $13.98 an hour, with the top 10 percent earning at least $16.62 an hour. PCAs working in hospitals were generally paid a little higher than those working elsewhere.
Employment Prospects for PCAs
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that PCA job growth will average a robust 18 percent between 2008 and 2018. This rapid growth is largely driven by the increasing need for medical care for the aging U.S. population as the majority of the Baby Boom generation reach 60.