What Does a Health Care Aide Do?

Updated September 15, 2022

If you enjoy taking care of people and want to work in healthcare, becoming a health care aide is a great option. Health care aides care for and support a variety of people, so it's a rewarding career. To determine if it's the right position for you, it's important to know more about the responsibilities of the role. In this article, we look at what a health care aide does, list their average salary and working conditions, explain how to become one, and answer frequently asked questions about the position.

Related: How to Choose a Career Path in 10 Easy Steps

What does a health care aide do?

A health care aide administers health care and support to people that are sick, elderly, or have disabilities that prevent them from taking care of themselves. They may provide care in the patient's home or a facility. Here are some of their primary tasks and responsibilities:

  • Monitor and records patient information

  • Assist with personal care, such as bathing, grooming, or getting dressed

  • Transport patients to doctor's appointments or to complete errands

  • Perform medical tasks, such as administering medication and checking vital signs

  • Provide emotional and social support to patients

  • Perform light housekeeping duties, such as cooking, dishes, and laundry

  • Assist patients with walking and getting in or out of bed

  • Implement treatment plans from physicians and teach family members to maintain the plan

How to become a health care aide

If you're interested in becoming a health care aide, follow these steps:

1. Get a diploma or certificate

There are no strict educational requirements to be a health care aide. However, many employers want candidates that have a relevant college diploma or a certificate from a training program. Many colleges offer specific health care aide training or general healthcare programs. Depending on the program you choose, you can get a certificate or diploma in as little as six months.

2. Pursue specialized training

Many of these programs require candidates to have training in first aid and CPR first, which is also an asset as a health care aide. Anyone can complete standard first aid and CPR training. Check for courses in your area, they're generally two full days and end with a written evaluation to test your knowledge. If you pass, you get a three-year certificate, after which you need to renew it.

Another certification you may want to consider is a food handler's certificate. You can complete the training program and take the certification test all online in just six hours. This certificate shows prospective employers you know how to handle food safely, which you may need to do to help your clients prepare meals and eat.

3. Gain experience

While you're pursuing further education, you can get experience at the same time. Your training program may even offer an internship or placement to give you on-the-job training. If it doesn't, consider volunteering in a healthcare environment or even pursuing an entry-level role in the industry. This gives you the opportunity to get to know the field better and develop good soft skills for your role as a health care aide.

At the very least, caring for an elderly relative or family friend can also give you relevant experience. Reach out to people in your life and see if they need help you can offer.

4. Build your resume

After pursuing the necessary training and getting some experience, you can build your resume. Ensure you highlight your educational background, relevant work experience, and skills the employer values. To determine what these skills are, look through the job posting and description for keywords that come up often. Then, include these keywords in your resume or cover letter to help you stand out over other candidates.

Tailor every cover letter and resume to the unique position and company. This ensures you include all the information each employer values and portrays you as an excellent candidate. It also shows prospective employers that you're taking time to consider the position and put effort into your application.

Related: Health Care Aide Resume (With Example and Tips)

6. Ace your interview

After sending your resume and cover letter for various roles, you can expect to receive calls or emails to schedule an interview. The interview is your chance to make a good first impression on employers and share more information about what makes you the perfect fit for the role. To do this, consider the following tips:

  • Research potential questions beforehand: To help you feel more confident in the interview, try researching questions beforehand and preparing potential answers. Having prepared answers ensures you can talk about everything you want to highlight to employers.

  • Dress professionally: Research the dress code for the company you're interviewing with to help you determine what's appropriate. Ensure your outfit is comfortable but professional to help you leave a lasting impression.

  • Arrive early: Arriving to the interview early shows prospective employers you have good time management skills, a great trait for health care aides to have. Plan your route ahead of time and prepare for potential delays, such as traffic.

  • Be prepared: Bring extra copies of your resume for the interviewer. This shows them you're organized and prepared.

Related: Interview Preparation Tips

Average salary

The average national salary for a health care aide is $46,4489 per year or $20.07 per hour. It's important to note both, as health care aides don't always work a typical 40-hour work week. Some work full time, sometimes over 40 hours, and some only see their clients on weekends or overnight visits. The average salary changes based on your location, experience, and type of employer. For example, private clients may pay more than an agency.

Related: How To Negotiate Salary (With Examples)

Working conditions

Health care aides can work in a variety of environments, such as in a hospital, clinic, long-term care home, or group home. However, most health care aides work in patients' homes. This means they must travel and bring basic medical equipment with them, such as a blood pressure monitor. They may also need to transport their patients to doctor's appointments or to complete errands. Health care aides work on their feet a lot and help patients move in and out of bed or around their house. To do this, health care aides should be physically fit to avoid injuries on the job.

Frequently asked questions about becoming a health care aide

To help you decide if a career as a health care aide is the best option for you, here are some answers to frequently asked questions you may have:

What skills does a health care aide need?

To be a successful health care aide, you need the following skills and attributes:

  • Compassion and empathy: You must be able to offer compassion and empathy to patients as a health care aide. It helps you build strong, trusting relationships with your patients and reassure them when they're upset.

  • Communication skills: Excellent written and verbal communication skills are necessary to help you communicate with patients, their family members, and physicians. You also need to keep detailed notes and files to monitor patients' health and progress.

  • Good physical and mental health: To take care of patients properly, you need to be healthy yourself. Physical health is important as you'll be standing a lot, lifting patients, and supporting them. Good mental health helps you stay positive and encourage patients to do the same.

  • Time management skills: You likely will be visiting multiple patients a day, so strong time-management skills are essential. They help you budget your time appropriately and ensure all your patients receive the proper care.

  • Patience: Another good attribute for you to have as a health care aide is patience. Patients may be irritable or upset sometimes, so being patient can help you continue to work professionally and help patients feel better.

Related: How to Improve Your Skill Set and Keep Skills Current

Is a health care aide a nurse?

No, a health care aide isn't a nurse. Health care aides can perform basic medical tasks, such as changing the bandages on a wound, administering medication, monitoring vitals, and assisting with rehabilitative care. Nurses receive years of medical training to offer more extensive health care. This includes medical tasks such as performing physical exams, assisting in surgery, and treating wounds or other injuries.

What are job prospects for a health care aide like?

As health care aides can work anywhere from hospitals to patients' homes, there are job prospects all across Canada. According to the Government of Canada's Job Bank, here are what job prospects for every province and territory look like:

  • Alberta: good

  • British Columbia: good

  • Manitoba: good

  • New Brunswick: good

  • Newfoundland and Labrador: fair

  • Northwest Territories: fair

  • Nova Scotia: good

  • Nunavut: good

  • Ontario: good

  • Prince Edward Island: good

  • Quebec: good

  • Saskatchewan: good

  • Yukon: good

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