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Health Care Assistant Overview

Career News September 25, 2013

Being a Health Care Assistant (HCA) is one of those positions that are highly rewarding, personally and professionally. The HCA job description is, simply, providing in-home care for patients who are unable to care for themselves. Regardless of your background, training programs and experience are required before you set yourself up in caring for patients and their daily needs.

HCA Job Description

An in-home care assistant is trained to assist the elderly, disabled mentally ill and terminally ill patients function in their own homes. These tasks can include anything from personal grooming to meal preparation and possibly even feeding the patient.

This position becomes necessary when the patient’s family is no longer able to care for their loved one to the level they deserve. In this case, some light general housekeeping may be part of the HCA job description.

Most of the time, HCA’s are hired by professional agencies that specialize in home health care. In this situation, you would be given a work schedule and specific instructions on caring for each patient as directed and supervised by a nurse or manager from the agency.

Following are some specific tasks within the HCA job description:

•Transporting patients to their doctor’s appointments
•Making the beds
•Doing laundry
•Meal preparation
•Dispensing the patient’s medicine
•Running general errands
•Changing bandages
•Check vital signs
•Apply lotion to dry skin
•Light cleaning to maintain sanitary conditions
•Assisting patients into the shower or bathtub
•Helping patients to and from the toilet or changing adult diapers

And even some medical procedures, such as:

•Glucose tolerance
•Blood pressure checks
•Assistance in minor surgery
•Long-term control of heart conditions, diabetes, asthma, etc.

Part of the HCA job description is also keeping the patient mentally active by playing games or helping with crossword puzzles and providing craft projects. This lifts spirits and helps pass the time in a positive manner. If a patient’s attitude is dreary, their quality of life diminishes. It is necessary to find ways to change up the day and promote a positive outlook by sitting outside on the porch or back yard for a couple of hours.

HCA Character Traits

The HCA job description is such that there are certain character and physical traits one must possess, to be efficient and safe.

•Physically fit – it is necessary to lift patients and also be able to turn them if they are bed-ridden
•Compassion – listening to the patient’s concerns and problems is necessary to doing a good job

The HCA job description is not limited to just fulfilling the medical portion, but also creating a bond with the patient in order to be able to help in the long run. It is not uncommon for a HCA to work with one patient for a couple of years.

Training Requirements

The prerequisites for a HCA training program are minimal, whereas a high school diploma isn’t required. An applicant who has basic credentials, though, have an advantage toward pursuing other careers in the future.

Online training programs are offered through some local community colleges and the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC). In taking these online courses, students will need to enroll in local CPR, and first aid classes to gain some hands-on experience. Another way to find training programs would be through vocational or community-based organizations.

As a newly hired HCA, you would receive on-the-job training from registered nurses or experienced assistants. This hands-on training period will give experience in changing beds, cooking for their patients and general behavior while in the patient’s home. Learning safety techniques and emergency response procedures are necessary elements of training.

If your goal is to become a nursing assistant or registered nurse (RN), advancement from a HCA is possible with further training.

HCA Compensation

According to and their national research, the median pay scale of a HCA is $25,000 per year with the low end (10th percentile) being $16,900 and the high end (90th percentile) at $41,600. The numbers reflected, though, vary greatly depending on your location.

Being a HCA is a rewarding position that can set your career up for the rest of your life. Learn more today!

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