Nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates (NOC 3413)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates are all types of health care assistants (HCAs). In B.C., HCAs who work in hospitals and facilities are known as care aides. They assist nurses, doctors, hospital and facility staff in the basic care of patients.

Watch the video below to see what a day in the life of a patient care attendant is like.

Common job titles
  • aide, geriatric
  • aide, nursing
  • aide, respite care
  • assistant, continuing care
  • assistant, environmental - medical
  • assistant, health care

Duties

In general, care aides work closely with patients to:

  • Answer their call signals
  • Bathe, dress and groom them
  • Serve meals, feed them and help them with menu selection
  • Weigh, lift, turn and position them
  • Shave them before operations
  • Measure blood pressure, temperature, pulse and breathing
  • Record fluid intake and output
  • Supply and empty bed pans and collect specimens such as urine, feces and sputum
  • Give medicines, suppositories, colonic irrigations and enemas
  • Give first aid in emergencies

In addition, care aides:

  • Supervise exercise routines, set up leisure activities and join patients on outdoor activities
  • Monitor patients’ progress, symptoms and behaviour, and report key observations
  • Document patient care on charts
  • Transport patients by wheelchair and stretcher for treatment and surgery
  • Carry messages, reports, forms and specimens between departments
  • Do office work

Care aides may also:

  • Make beds and tidy patients’ rooms
  • Keep an inventory of supplies
  • Clean, sterilize, repair, set up and operate equipment
  • Transport patients between facilities

Work environment

Care aides work in hospital wards and in a growing range of private and public long-term care facilities. These include group homes, hospices, and facilities focused on acute care, multi-level/complex care, dementia care, assisted living, mental health, and pre- and post-surgery care.

Care aides usually work 8- to 12-hour shifts. Full-time employees work 36 to 40 hours per week. They often work weekends, holidays, evenings or nights. On-call and part-time work is also common.

This work can be physically demanding, with constant standing and walking. Care aides also do a great deal of lifting, but the use of patient lifts means fewer worksite injuries. Care aides can become stressed and fatigued from working with sick and disabled patients. In addition, they may be exposed to infectious diseases, toxic chemicals and violent patients.

More and more, care aides use computers and new technology to record patient information, organize work schedules and perform other tasks.

Insights from industry

There are many job opportunities for care aides in a variety of environments across B.C. Demand is especially high in long-term care facilities and privately-run institutions, and in rural and remote areas. As a result, where there is strong demand, salaries are rising.

The role of care aides is expanding, especially in workplaces without a registered nurse on site.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Care aides typically begin their careers in casual or on-call roles. But more and more, new graduates of health care assistant programs are finding permanent positions.

With additional education and certification, a care aide can become a licensed practical nurse (LPN). From there, they can train to become a registered nurse (RN).

Additional resources