Updated March 2023
Aiming to play a key role on a patient care team without going through years of university training? Then you may want to become a health care aide.
Health care aides deliver the kind of front-line, compassionate support that makes a real difference in patients’ lives. By providing practical assistance and companionship, they help their clients stay as safe and independent as possible.
And now is an excellent time to get into this career. There’s very strong demand for health care aides in Winnipeg and throughout Manitoba.
So what does it take to get started? How do you become a health care aide?
Read on to learn about five simple steps that can help you reach your goal.
1. BE CLEAR ABOUT THE ROLE OF A HEALTH CARE AIDE
First, you need to have a good understanding of what a health care aide actually does.
Health care aides (HCAs) assist people who struggle to carry out essential daily activities. They help with things like moving around, bathing, getting dressed, and remembering to take medicines.
As an HCA, your tasks could include transferring clients from beds to wheelchairs, helping them use the toilet, preparing meals, or doing light housekeeping. You will also be responsible for monitoring your clients’ conditions and reporting any changes or concerns to a supervising nurse.
Susan Zirk is a home care HCA who loves being able to help her clients maintain their dignity and independence. She says anyone who wants to become a health care aide should know what to expect.
“Understand the responsibilities and duties of an HCA before pursuing this path. Make sure you’re truly inspired to care for others and know exactly what the role involves.”
2. TAKE NOTE OF THE TRAITS HEALTH CARE AIDES NEED TO SUCCEED
It takes a specific set of characteristics to thrive as a health care aide. You should have:
☑️ A strong desire to protect vulnerable individuals
☑️ Compassion and respect for people of all ages and backgrounds
☑️ Good observation and problem-solving skills
☑️ The ability to be friendly but firm
Herzing graduate Sheri Richard is a health care aide at a long-term care home in Winnipeg. She says it’s important to do some self-reflection before committing to this career.
“Empathy and patience are two of the most important qualities you need to be successful in this role. You have to want to help. You can’t look at it as a job…it’s a calling.
Of course, you also need to know about patient care, how to safely move and tend to residents, etc. But these are all things you’ll learn about in health care aide training. Attitude can’t be taught. It takes a certain kind of dedication and mindset to be great in this role.”
3. ENROL IN A QUALITY HEALTH CARE AIDE TRAINING PROGRAM
You don’t need to spend years in training to become a health care aide. A college-level health care aide program typically takes less than seven months to complete.
A good program will teach you how to support clients in hospitals and care facilities as well as in private homes.
You can expect to learn about:
☑️ The structure and functions of the human body
☑️ Wound care and infection control
☑️ Assisting patients with grooming and hygiene
☑️ Safe techniques for moving patients, both with and without equipment
☑️ Nutrition and meal planning
☑️ Respite, palliative, and end-of-life care
☑️ Communicating with patients and their families☑️ Professional ethics
4. COMPLETE AN INTERNSHIP TO GET YOUR FOOT IN THE DOOR
The more hands-on experience you can get, the more attractive you’ll be to potential employers. So completing a work placement as part of your health care aide training is a key step. Herzing’s program includes an extensive eight-week internship.
An internship is your chance to interact with real patients, apply what you’ve learned, and build your confidence.
Many times, students get job offers right from their internships. That was the case for Sheri.
“I got hired at the place where I did my practicum! And since then, I’ve had a promotion to receive more guaranteed shifts. But even at the beginning, when I first started, I always had full-time work hours.
New health care aide graduates often start as casuals. But you’ll find that if you’re good at your job, there are always extra shifts and opportunities to expand your work hours.”
5. EXPLORE YOUR CAREER OPTIONS AS A HEALTH CARE AIDE
Health care aides can find job opportunities with hospitals, group homes, and home care companies.
Most HCAs work with seniors. But that’s not the only option, as Herzing instructor Nancy Scott explains.
“Some health care aides work with younger clients who have developmental disabilities, or at group homes for adults who need special care.
In rural areas, some of our health care graduates have landed jobs as teaching assistants in schools, supporting kids with developmental challenges.
I also know of health care aides in very small towns who worked with babies in hospitals.
In bigger cities, in hospitals, this is not allowed. It’s not within the scope of practice for health care aides to work with babies.
So, where you choose to live will have an impact on your career options—but there are definitely ways to follow your interests and specialize in this field.”
WANT TO BECOME A HEALTH CARE AIDE?
Check out the Health Care Aide diploma program from Herzing College Winnipeg.
It’s just 6.5 months long and includes an eight-week practicum at a local care home.
Our HCA graduates have been hired by Victoria Hospital, St. Amant Centre, Extendicare Oakview Place, Maples Personal Care Home, and other facilities throughout Winnipeg.
Click below to get complete program details and chat live with an admissions advisor. We’re here to help!