The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that there were 634,400 Medical Assistants, often called Patient Care Assistants, in the United States as of May 2016. This figure is expected to increase by 29% overall between the years of 2014- 2024. So, what is a Patient Care Assistant, and how do they contribute to health care?
What is a Patient Care Assistant?
Patient Care Assistants (PCA) can work in a variety of settings including; hospitals, medical clinics/offices, nursing care facilities, homes, assisted living facilities, and rehabilitation centers.
There aren’t federal guidelines regarding education requirements for PCA’s. At MANA, PCAs are required to have a GED or high school diploma. This differs from Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and Registered (or Certified) Medical Assistants, which all require a specific training program covering both academic/written and hands-on skills competency testing. It is very common for PCAs to receive on the job training making this position an excellent entry-level position in the medical field.
PCAs are often medical students, nursing students, lab students, physical therapy students, and others who are working toward a degree program and looking for healthcare experience. PCAs work under the supervision of licensed medical staff at MANA Medical Associates. Many PCAs work in the float pool and gain valuable experience at a variety of MANA clinics.
How is a PCA Trained at MANA?
MANA will hire individuals for a PCA position who may or may not already have medical clinic experience. A Registered Nurse in the Training & Development Department at MANA will begin the PCA training by providing personalized instruction, educational handouts and ample opportunity to practice taking vital signs including blood pressure, temperature, and weight.
Each PCA at MANA will complete an initial skills assessment at the beginning of the training period. Then, the Training Department will match the PCA with a peer at the clinic who will continue training them for their specific duties at that clinic. At any time during the PCA’s employment, the Clinic Manager or the PCA may request additional training or instruction. After a few weeks of learning on the job, the PCA will return to the Training & Development for a follow up Vital Sign Skills Assessment.
What does a PCA do?
PCA’s can have a wide range of responsibilities depending on the environment in which they work. In general, a PCA helps provide care for patients. Below are some of the duties that are commonly assigned to PCAs who work at MANA Clinics.
PCA responsibilities may include:
- Escort patients from waiting rooms to the provider’s exam rooms
- Taking vital signs & documenting the results into the Patient’s Electronic Medical Record
- Assisting with vital signs at community health events
Opportunity for training in venipuncture/phlebotomy
Clean exam rooms between patients & assist in keeping patient flow running timely
Assists with clerical duties as needed; copying, faxing, & office organization
Cleaning or sanitizing work & prep areas, including restocking supplies and equipment
Doing a variety of side tasks to alleviate licensed providers to focus on high-level tasks