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Understanding the Role of a Patient Care Assistant in Different Departments

The patient care assistant job title is a broad employment classification that could apply to unlicensed or even some licensed providers working in various branches of the healthcare system. These individuals are a critical component of the medical field because they conduct activities that are often considered to be routine, but that are absolutely essential for ensuring the health and well-being of clients while they are being evaluated and treated. Although most people working in unlicensed professions begin their career as an entry-level nurse aide, medical assistant, home health aide, or something similar, there are several specialized opportunities that are available to those who want to focus on performing a smaller set of activities and who want to improve their earnings or benefits. Those considering either option are advised to develop an understanding of the role of the assistant in different departments before they commit to a specific branch of the healthcare industry.

Entry-level positions are a great way for a new assistant to gain experience with patient care and build a solid list of references that can recommend them to more advanced departments once they decide to make the transition. Mastering the fundamentals of delivering comprehensive care is an important first step on the road to working in any medical department and is viewed favorably by most administrators who want to hire individuals who will become constructive and highly valued members of the team. The generalist assistant can expect to be responsible for helping clients with activities of daily living that may include bathing, dressing, eating, walking, and using the restroom. In addition, most nursing homes and hospitals require assistants to monitor vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and more to make sure the patient is maintaining a specific standard of health. Also, the assistant will need to learn to communicate with advanced providers about any concerns that they might have.

Although several assistants find that general practice is their preferred long-term employment option, a number of unlicensed providers choose to pursue more specialized mid-level and advanced employment opportunities. Positions such as dialysis technician, EKG technician, dental assistant, and psychiatric aide are very popular mid-level specialist work options that have relatively few entry requirements and that allow employees to focus on a smaller set of responsibilities. In general, specialty certification will need to be completed in order to be considered for these openings and some employers may require some college experience along with specialty training. The tasks assigned to unlicensed allied health personnel in these departments often include preparing patients for treatment, administering diagnostic exams, delivering client education, assisting with procedures, scheduling appointments, following up with the patients, operating and maintaining equipment, and more.

For those interested in helping to manage complex patients who require high risk treatments, work in departments such as surgery and radiology may be the perfect fit. These positions often require a new employee to have some college education, specialized training, national certification, and possibly even licensing in some states. Individuals who choose to pursue employment in an advanced area of practice should expect to have patient care assistant duties that include preparing clients for procedures, helping to educate patients, assisting with procedures, sterilizing and preparing equipment, following up with a patient after treatment has been delivered, ensuring that policies and protocols are being followed, and much more. Since advanced fields often involve high risk diagnostic and treatment protocols, employers usually want to make sure that all employees are competent and qualified to provide care.

Regardless of whether an assistant wants to work in a general or specialized area of practice, individuals should understand the options available to them. Unlicensed allied health personnel work in one of the most rewarding and diverse employment sectors available today and are able to benefit from very high levels of job growth and an expanding array of career advancement options. In addition, the industry is expected to continue to grow at an extremely fast pace for the foreseeable future given the number of new patients who are entering the healthcare system each and every day.

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