As compassionate caregivers responsible for helping people prepare meals, shave, and dress, direct care workers are the providers of basic care to people who are chronically ill, elderly, or disabled. Working to assist licensed personnel, you might find them in hospitals and rehabilitation centers employed as nursing assistants or patient care technicians. The way you can become a direct care worker is to complete coursework as a nursing assistant or home health aide and successfully pass a certification examination, if required by the health department in your region. Pre-medical and pre-nursing students frequently opt to become a direct care worker in order to obtain experience early on in their careers.
A nursing assistant (CNA) is a direct care worker who helps patients complete activities of daily living (ADLs), including baths, oral hygiene, and feeding. As a nursing assistant, you will primarily be working under the supervision of licensed nurses in a nursing home, a skilled nursing facility, or in a hospital setting caring for patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's or some other chronic disease. You might also work in hospice, caring for those with terminal illnesses. If you would like to obtain certification as a nursing assistant, complete a course at your local high school, community college, or trade school; sometimes it is even possible to get training at a nursing home for free in exchange for a work commitment. Depending upon where you intend to work, you will need to update or renew your certification every so often.
Building upon the nursing assistant role, the patient care technician (PCT) is a multi-disciplinary healthcare member qualified to provide additional support in various healthcare areas. PCT duties might include blood draws, taking vitals, and providing hygienic care. To become a direct care worker as a PCT, you will need to complete the nursing assistant coursework and obtain current certification, then apply to a patient care technician program. The course of study generally includes classes in phlebotomy, anatomy, and respiratory therapy.
Training as a home health aide allows you to become a direct care worker in a particularly short period of time, as most formal programs can be completed in approximately one to two months. Even though certain regions within the U.S. and Canada require certification and training, other areas may not unless you are planning to care for those insured by special programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Home health aides receive training on the job and in trade schools, completing courses in nutrition, meal preparation, and hygiene. Positions for home health aides are available in nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, and in the private homes of patients.