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Patient Care Assistant

Patient Care Assistants or Certified Nursing Assistants provide nursing support for RN/LPN staff in the hospital/or skilled nursing facility. They may also assist with the care of children, new mothers, infants and the elderly. The Certified Nursing Assistant works under the supervision of a registered professional nurse or a Licensed Practical Nurse; in a nursing facility, or as a private Home Health Aid. A Patient Care Assistant's duties in a nursing facility include but are not limited to: measuring vital signs and assisting patients with daily living activities. A Patient Care Assistant working in the capacity as a Home Health Aid's duties include, but are not limited to: preparing meals, providing in-home patient care, applying health and sanitation standards, and monitoring their patient’s progress.

A person seeking Patient Care Assisting as a career should have a sympathetic nature and emotional stability. An CNA needs to have keen observational skills as support staff members are often the ones to first notice a change in patient symptoms. The CNA also needs to be able to communicate effectively with others about symptoms, and must be able to work effectively under the supervision of more senior medical personnel.

What is a Patient Care Assistant (PCA)?

A patient care assistant (PCA) is a nursing assistant who has successfully completed a PCA or CNA program. He/she may be employed in many different areas within the health care continuum: hospitals, nursing homes, extended care facilities, home health agencies, and doctor's offices, to name just a few.

Duties & Work Environment

Patient Care Assistants (PCAs) work with patients under the direct supervision of health care professionals, such as doctors or nurses. They help patients with tasks such as bathing, dressing, and eating. They also assist with taking patients' temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration. Additionally, they assist with preparing and administering medications, collecting specimens for lab tests, monitoring patients, and recording treatment.

They often communicate with patients often so that they can relay necessary information to the patients’ doctors. This requires them to be very empathetic and to be able to connect and interact well with their patients. Their work can often be physical, and it can require long hours on their feet, which means that a patient care aid should be in adequate shape. They are often working alongside nurses and other aids, so they must be able to work well on a team, follow directions well, and be able to offer help wherever it is most needed. They must be able to communicate information well between the patient and the health care providers. Always ready to meet patients' needs, a PCA's responsibilities may include:

Administrative Duties:

  • Using various computer software programs
  • Greeting patients and managing appointment schedule
  • Monitoring and recording patient during treatment
  • Transferring medical documents into electronic health records
  • Collecting and processing patient specimens and lab work
  • Handling correspondence, billing and bookkeeping

Clinical Duties (varies by state law):

  • Clean and bathe patients or residents
  • Help patients use the toilet and dress
  • Turn, reposition, and transfer patients between beds and wheelchairs
  • Measure patients’ vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature
  • Serve meals and help patients eat
  • Assist patients with moving about the facility, such as pushing wheelchairs
  • Assist in treatment and medication administration
  • Clean equipment and facilities
  • Change linens
  • Stock supplies

PCAs are essential members of the health care team in a variety of settings, including:

  • Private and hospital physician offices (both primary care and specialty practices)
  • Hospital outpatient clinics and emergency rooms
  • Urgent care clinics
  • Medical and diagnostic laboratories
  • Kidney dialysis centers
  • Nursing homes
  • Long-term care facilities

With the increasing number of group physician practices and treatment facilities, there is a greater need for larger support staffs. The excellent job outlook for PCAs is driven by this expansion of health care options, as well as the growth and aging of our population. It's no wonder the multi-skilled Patient Care Assistant is in such demand!

Program Entry: The Patient Care Assistant program has an entry three times a year during the Spring, Summer, and Fall terms at the Lake Worth campus.

Program Length: The program is approximately 3 - 3 1/2 months (one semester) depending on the student's selection of the full-time day or part-time evening program.

Program Schedule: During the Spring and Fall terms, the PCA program at Lake Worth offers a full-time day, and part time evening program. The schedules for these programs are below:

PCA Day Schedule: Monday through Thursday from 8:00am-3:00pm (Clinical days will be 7:00am-2:00pm)

PCA Evening Schedule: Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 4:00pm-10:30pm (Clinical days will have the same schedule)

During the Summer terms, the PCA program at Lake Worth offers the full-time day program only. The schedule for this program is below:

PCA Day Schedule: Monday through Thursday from 8:00am-3:00pm (Clinical days will be 7:00am-2:00pm)


Program Clock/Contact Hours: The program consists of 290 clock hours.

Program Location: Lake Worth campus (Students will attend Clinicals at medical facilities throughout Palm Beach County)

Instructors and Facilities: Students receive instruction by industry-credentialed professionals. Lab classes are held in a modern hospital-type learning environment, utilizing current equipment and technology, including up-to-date medical records software.

Program Costs: As a public institution, Palm Beach State's tuition is affordable. Currently, the approximate cost of the Patient Care Assistant program for Florida residents is about $1,500, which includes tuition, textbooks, criminal background and drug screening), physical examination, immunizations, and uniforms and name badge. Out-of-state residents pay a higher tuition and all costs are subject to change. Tuition and other costs are reviewed at our Information Sessions.

Financial Aid: Financial aid is not available for this program. However, there are a limited number of scholarships available through the Palm Beach State College Foundation.

Graduation Certificate: Graduates of the Patient Care Assistant program will receive a Career Certificate Program (CCP).

Professional Certification/Licensure: Students who graduate from the Patient Care Assistant program will have the required contact hours needed to work as a PCA (Patient Care Assistant), HHA (Home Health Aid), and/or a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant).

Accreditation: The Palm Beach State's Patient Care Assistant program is approved by the Florida Board of Nursing.

Program Curriculum: Please see Program Overview for more details on Patient Care Assistant courses, including links to course descriptions.

Required Course Sequence - Note: This program has no prerequisites and does not require a high school diploma.

Catalog Program Details

Where You Study Matters

Based on Palm Beach State's Lake Worth campus, this certificate program, which has no prerequisites and does not require a high school diploma, provides high-quality training in patient care at an affordable cost. As a state college, our tuition is a fraction of what private schools cost. When you also consider our experienced and credentialed instructors, small class sizes and modern medical office training lab, you'll see why Palm Beach State is the smart place to start your patient care assisting career.

What Is Required to Get Started?

You must have a valid Palm Beach State application on file with the Admission/Registration office. You do not need a high school diploma in order to be eligible for this program. See Program Overview and Program Facts and Deadlines for more information.

What is the Employment Outlook for a PCA?

Demand for nursing assistants is expected to grow about as fast as the average over the next few years. Replacement of support staff leaving the CNA nursing profession should be a major source of new job opportunities. Patient Care Assistants held about 1,564,300  jobs in 2016. About 40 percent of CNAs worked in nursing care facilities, 26 percent in hospitals facilities, and another 11 percent in residential care facilities. Others worked for home health care services and Federal, State, and local government agencies. Most patient care assistants work full-time.

What is the Average Salary of an PCA?

The median annual wage for nursing assistants was $27,520 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,680, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $38,630.

For more information regarding salary and job outlook for PCAs, please visit the Department of Labor and Statistics website.

Earn Credits Towards the Practical Nursing Program

Students who enroll in and complete our PCA program are eligible to receive credits towards our Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program.

Graduates of the Patient Care Assistant program will receive a Career Certificate Program (CCP).


Nursing Program Offices (RN, LPN, PCA) Contact Info

Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8:30am to 4:30pm  |  Closed Fri. (Summer ONLY), Sat. & Sun. 

Location: Lake Worth campus - Allied Health (AH) building on the first floor, room AH 110

Contact Number: 561-868-3412

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