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A Strategic Approach to Career Advancement as a Patient Care Assistant

The medical sector is one of the best branches of the US economy for progressive career advancement because it offers several employment opportunities for those who have little experience or education in the patient care industry. While several people choose to complete many years of college education and postgraduate training in order to work as a nurse or physician, this long and difficult road does not seem appealing to most people working in the industry who need to start earning a living sooner. Fortunately, there are several entry-level career opportunities within the healthcare industry that require only a high school level education and that can provide the knowledge and skills needed to advance over time.

For those who are just starting out in patient care, a position such as that of nursing assistant, medical aide, home health aide, dialysis technician, or pharmacy technician is usually the best option because an employer will usually consider applicants who have no previous work experience in the medical industry as long as they are able to work well with others and have demonstrated a commitment to providing the highest level of care possible. Individuals who begin their career at this level are generally responsible for helping patients with routine activities of daily living such as eating, dressing, bathing, and more. The position may not seem that glamorous, but it does allow new assistants to gain exposure to the basics of providing high quality care and it will often help them decide if this is the appropriate industry for them.

Unless an individual intends to complete two to four years in college and a national certification exam, they are generally going to need to start their career as an entry-level provider and work their way up the chain over the course of a few years. Specialized departments such as surgery, radiology, cardiology, and others do employ assistants and technicians, but they often require individuals to complete a few more competency requirements than are expected in a general area of practice. Since individuals who work in branches such as radiology and surgery are often asked to operate complex equipment or offer specialized medical services, they may need to become licensed in some states and are almost always going need to pass a national certification exam specific to the department before providing care.

One of the best ways to prepare oneself for a career in a specialized department without needing to spend several years in college or a long training program is to secure work in a general area of practice for a couple of years so that the basics of patient care can be mastered and one can begin networking in different departments. Employers almost always prefer to hire individuals whom they are familiar with and who are working within the organization already. This makes it easier to evaluate the suitability of an applicant based on the opinions of other supervisors who have worked with the individual before. An entry-level provider who has some free time may also be able to take advantage of opportunities such as job shadowing and volunteering in specialty departments if they have not decided on the branch that they want to pursue.

There are several credentialing options available to entry-level providers that may be required by the employer or might be completed on a voluntary basis. Opportunities such as in-house or independent patient care assistant training programs as well as medical assistant certification and other forms of certification may not need to be completed in order to perform one’s job better, but are often evidence that an individual has met the minimum standards of competence in the field and is a suitable candidate for an open position in a specialty area of practice. Those who intend to advance their career over time are encouraged to consider pursuing these types of credentials to increase their odds of being hired. Some people also find that employers end up reimbursing them for some of the expenses associated with credentialing and may even offer a more competitive patient care assistant salary in an attempt to retain them over the long-term. Before deciding on the exact pathway to pursue, it is important to take some time to consider one’s career objectives and advancement goals.

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