Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to the most commonly asked questions related to HCA training, education, career pathways, registration, and employment.

General FAQs

What is a Health Care Assistant?

Health Care Assistants (also referred to as HCAs) are front-line care providers and are important and respected members of British Columbia’s health care team. They play an important role in helping BC residents receive quality, person-centered care. They provide personal care assistance and services in a variety of health care settings (acute care hospitals, assisted living, group homes, continuing care, and community care).

What does a Health Care Assistant do?

A Health Care Assistant provides direct personal care assistance and support to a variety of clients, including older adults, people living with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses, and clients receiving palliative care.

 

Are there other titles that Health Care Assistants are typically referred to as?

Health Care Assistants may have many different titles, such as Care Aides, Resident Care Attendants, Community Health Workers, Home Support Workers, and Patient Care Attendants. No matter what titles are used, Health Care Assistants work with a common goal to provide the highest quality of basic care possible to their clients or residents.

What are some typical responsibilities and daily activities of a Health Care Assistant?

Health Care Assistants provide essential and important daily living support and comfort to patients, clients, and residents. They assist with bathing, grooming, dressing, toileting, and other personal hygiene activities.
HCAs provide personal care to both men and women, and they may help patients/residents with nutrition, mobility, and exercise as needed.

What are some characteristics that I must have to become a good Health Care Assistant?

To work in this field, you should have good interpersonal skills and a caring, compassionate nature. Health Care Assistants typically have a genuine desire to help others.

HCAs require patience and understanding because their clients may have cognitive, mental, or emotional health challenges, in addition to physical limitations.

The ability to handle stressful situations may be needed, with effective communication and good problem-solving skills. HCAs must be efficient and accurate, yet sensitive to the needs of clients.

Where do Health Care Assistants work?

Health Care Assistants work in a variety of health care settings including hospitals, continuing care and assisted-living settings, and in the community providing home care.

HCAs are supervised by, and work collaboratively with, nursing professionals and other members of the overall health care team.

What are the differences in the activities of working in a community setting (home support or assisted-living) versus multi-level/complex care (continuing care home) versus acute care (hospital)?

Health Care Assistants working in home support or assisted-living settings support clients who require some assistance to live on their own but may not require 24-hour nursing care. While HCAs working in continuing care homes or hospitals work under the direct supervision of a health care professional, HCAs working in community settings often work more independently. In addition to assisting clients with personal care activities, HCAs working in community settings may perform household management tasks and duties delegated to them by a nurse, in accordance with employer policy.

Education FAQs

What kind of education do I need to become a Health Care Assistant?

To become a registered Health Care Assistant in BC, you need to complete an education program recognized by the BC Care Aide and Community Health Worker Registry. Recognized HCA programs follow the BC HCA Provincial Curriculum. This training prepares graduates to provide person-centered care and support to clients experiencing physical, mental, and/or cognitive health challenges or with developmental disabilities in a variety of settings.

Students take courses focused on values and principles of health care provision, teamwork and collaboration, health conditions, communication, safety, and skills required to provide personal care and assistance within the HCA role. They also have the opportunity to apply knowledge, skills, and attitudes in the practice setting by completing practice education placements in care homes and community settings.

See the list of recognized BC HCA programs here.

Where can I search for available training programs to enroll to become a Health Care Assistant?

To become a registered Health Care Assistant in British Columbia, you must complete a recognized Health Care Assistant program using the provincial curriculum. Click here to view a list of recognized health care assistant education programs in British Columbia.

You can contact colleges to obtain information including registration requirements, course length, format, and tuition costs. All HCA programs will provide clinical placements to help students gain hands on experience.

Are there Health Care Assistant training programs that are located close to where I live?

Use our interactive map that will help you find a Health Care Assistant education program that is conveniently located in your area. Click here to check it out.

How long is the Health Care Assistant education program for students?

Health Care Assistant training varies from school to school, but the average duration is seven months. Most HCAs graduate, register, and start working in less than a year.

Is there financial support to assist with completing BC’s Health Care Assistant educational programs?

Yes, you can access different financial assistance options depending on your eligibility. See the Financial Support sections on each resources page for more information.

Are there dual credit options that offer Health Care Assistant training?

Yes, dual credit options are offered in some high schools throughout BC, allowing you to work toward an HCA credential while still in high school. Dual credit experiences enable you to enroll in post-secondary courses and earn credits toward your high school diploma and post-secondary credits at the same time.
For more information on dual credit options, click here.

Registration FAQs

Who is eligible to apply to the Registry?

All Health Care Assistants (HCA’s) seeking employment in a publicly funded health care setting in BC need to apply for registration with BC Care Aide and Community Health Worker Registry.

Why register?

To be eligible to work in a publicly funded health care setting in BC, Health Care Assistants must be registered with the BC Care Aide and Community Health Worker Registry.

What is the purpose of the Registry?

By creating a Registry for all care aides and community health workers in BC, the Ministry of Health is establishing and improving standards of care.

The Registry was also created to serve and protect vulnerable patients, residents, and clients receiving care from Health Care Assistants in the province.

Who is eligible to be on the Registry?

  • Graduates of Health Care Assistant programs in BC
  • Graduates of Health Care Assistant programs in Canada (outside of BC)
  • Licensed Practical Nurses, Registered Nurses, and Registered Psychiatric Nurses who are licensed to practice in Canada. (Nurses educated outside of Canada and not licensed to practice in Canada must apply as internationally educated health care professionals.)
  • Students enrolled in nursing programs in Canada
  • Internationally educated health care professionals (IEHCPs)

How much does it cost to register?

Currently, registration is free. To keep your Registry account active, annual verification is required.

Who can access the Registry?

  • Health Care Assistants, care aides, and community health workers
  • Nursing students
  • Employers wanting to hire registered Health Care Assistants
  • Educators wanting to be included in the Registry’s list of educational institutions.

I am a health care assistant employed in a private facility in BC. I want to register. Can I?

Yes, with proof of successful completion of a recognized training program for Health Care Assistants.

How do I know if my position is included in the scope of the Registry?

If the position requires you to have completed a recognized training program for Health Care Assistants in BC, or an equivalent program offered by an educational institution in Canada, you would then be in the scope of the Registry and eligible to apply for registration.

What are the advantages of registering as a Health Care Assistant for internationally educated nurses?

Working as an HCA, you will gain valuable Canadian health care experience and keep your skills in practice. You will also have access to a comprehensive benefits package and salary while building seniority with an employer, and accumulate work hours to improve your eligibility for transitional education programs.

Employment FAQs

How many Health Care Assistants are currently registered in BC?

According to the BC Care Aide & Community Health Worker Registry, as of September 2019, there are approximately 35,000 registered HCAs with a status of active – good standing.

Will I be able to find a job? Are there HCA job opportunities in the future of the health care industry?

The demand for Health Care Assistants continues to grow as an important and necessary role in delivering health care in BC, making it a great career choice.
As our society ages, more people will require the support of health care workers to look after their personal health needs.

WorkBC projects that 5,980 HCA jobs will be created in the province over the next ten years.

How much do Health Care Assistants get paid?

According to information from the Health Employers Association of BC, the starting hourly wage of a Health Care Assistant working in a publicly funded setting can range from $22.38 to $25.33, depending on the employment sector. As a full-time or part-time employee, you would have access to a comprehensive benefits package and a benefit pension plan through the Municipal Pension Plan. Most graduates usually start with casual or part-time employment and work up to full-time status gradually..

Will there be Health Care Assistant job opportunities in my local community?

There is a strong demand for Health Care Assistants across the province, in both urban centres and rural communities.
Visit our Employment page for more information about job opportunities.

What are the typical work hours for Health Care Assistants? Are there full-time and part-time options? Are Health Care Assistants required to work weekends, holiday shifts? Are the expected to work on-call duty?

Health Care Assistants may work full-time or part-time hours, or on a call-in (casual) basis. They can apply for positions that are permanent, temporary, or casual depending on department and employer needs. Shift schedules may include a combination of days, evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays, as well as on-call duty.

Are the typical daily work activities of a Health Care Assistant physically demanding?

Health Care Assistants are on their feet for much of their workday. Many HCAs work in environments that require varying levels of physical exertion. They may assist clients with mobility, positioning, lifts and transfers, use and move equipment, and provide personal care.
 

I’m an LPN and I work full-time (or part-time) as a Health Care Assistant. Am I eligible to register?

Yes, anyone classified and working as either a full-time or part-time Health Care Assistant is eligible to register by providing the requested credentials.

Do Health Care Assistants in BC have to be fluent in English?

Health Care Assistants must be able to read, write, speak, and understand the English language in order to follow directions and communicate effectively with clients, family members, and the health care team. According to the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI), teamwork and communication failures are a primary cause of patient safety incidents in health care, and the ability to communicate effectively is one of the fundamental safety competencies.

Internationally Educated Nurses FAQs

What are the advantages of registering as a Health Care Assistant for internationally educated nurses?

Working as an HCA, you will gain valuable Canadian health care experience and keep your skills in practice, access comprehensive benefits package and salary while building seniority with an employer, and accumulate work hours to improve your eligibility for bridging programs if you wish to become registered as a nurse in BC.

What are the HCA registration requirements for internationally educated nurses?

Nurses educated outside of Canada and not licenced to practice in Canada must apply to register as Internationally Educated Health Care Professionals. For more information on registration requirements, click here.

What is the registration pathway for internationally educated nurses?

Depending on your background, there are several pathways to becoming a registered HCA. If you have previous HCA or health-related education completed outside of BC, you may be eligible to complete a competency assessment to confirm that you meet BC HCA Core Competencies.
Another option is to complete a recognized BC HCA education program (approximately seven months). You can find more information on the pathways to registration for internationally educated nurses here.

Is there financial support to assist with expenses related to recredentialing?

Yes, there are several financial assistance options that you may be able to access, depending on your eligibility. See the Financial Support section on this resources page.

What bridging education programs exist in BC for internationally educated nurses?

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