What Does a Direct Care Worker Do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A direct care worker is someone who provides health care services to clients like people with disabilities, or older adults. They can work in private and group homes as well as skilled nursing facilities and other medical centers. Qualifications for direct care workers range from high school diplomas for personal aides to nursing degrees for people working in facilities like Alzheimer’s wards. This sector of the health care industry is often in a state of growth, as advanced medical care increases survival rates and expands the base of people who may need assistance with tasks of daily living.

A direct care worker may assist someone with washing dishes.
A direct care worker may assist someone with washing dishes.

In all settings, a direct care worker is assigned patients to work with and meets with them to review their needs. These allied health professionals can also meet with doctors and other members of a care team to talk about the case and any issues that may be of concern. Care workers can determine precisely what kind of assistance someone needs, and how it should be provided. This can include the administration of medications and some treatments, along with assistance on tasks to help the patient retain independence.

A direct care worker may help clients with mobility issues.
A direct care worker may help clients with mobility issues.

Providing medication and performing procedures is limited to people with medical qualifications, like nurses. In other cases, a direct care worker without specialized training can provide assistance with activities like bathing, dressing, and eating. Personal assistants can help people transfer between beds and wheelchairs, perform tasks, and care for their environments. For example, a direct care worker might assist someone with washing dishes and sweeping around the house, or feeding pets, in addition to providing personal health care services.

Direct care workers may help clients with shopping.
Direct care workers may help clients with shopping.

The level of training required can depend on the setting and the kind of work performed. Aides and orderlies may learn on the job, although they can also take short training sessions to pick up important concepts. These can include discussions on safely lifting and moving patients, and observing biohazard protocols to keep their clients safe. More advanced training for a direct care worker is available through nursing schools, which offer a variety of terminal degrees to students who plan to work in direct care.

Direct care workers provide emotional and mental care as well as physical support.
Direct care workers provide emotional and mental care as well as physical support.

Some direct care workers are employed directly by facilities and provide services on site. Others may work for services which can provide staffing for facilities or dispatch home health workers to people who need them. It is also possible to work independently, connecting with clients and building up relationships with them to have a steady supply of work. Independents are sometimes less expensive, because their clients don’t need to pay for overhead costs associated with agencies.

Direct care workers employed by a long-term care facility are a part of a much larger care team.
Direct care workers employed by a long-term care facility are a part of a much larger care team.
Direct care workers may keep seniors busy with different activities.
Direct care workers may keep seniors busy with different activities.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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