Health Care Aide

Health care aides provide personal assistance and support services for elderly, disabled, acute or chronically ill people who require short term assistance or ongoing support.

Also Known As:Caregiver, Client Care Attendant, Geriatric Health Aide, Health Care Assistant, Home Support Worker, Institutional Aide, Medical Assistant, Nursing Assistant, Personal Care Attendant, Residential Aide
NOC Number(s):3413, 6471.1
Minimum Education:At least Grade 10
Employment Outlook:Job openings: turnover plus new jobs due to above average growth in occupation in Alberta 2013-2017
Interests:S M o ; S M o

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Health Care Aide

Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study


Working under the supervision of a nurse or heath professional, health care aides provide basic health services for clients who have medical conditions or major functional limitations. They provide the physical and emotional support clients need to be as independent as possible in the community, hospitals or continuing care facilities. 

Health care aides may work with clients who:

  • have complex, chronic medical conditions
  • have physical or cognitive disabilities, or functional deficits that interfere with activities of daily living
  • require end-of-life (palliative) care
  • have acute illnesses.

Duties vary from one position to another but, in general, health care aides:

  • assist clients with bathing, grooming and dressing, and other personal hygiene activities
  • feed clients and, when required, measure intake and output
  • assist with bed transfers, lifting, turning, walking and crutch walking
  • assist clients with therapeutic activities such as range of motion exercises, medication administration and reminders, simple wound care, respiratory equipment use or urinary care
  • implement therapeutic interventions for behaviour management
  • administer suppositories and fleet enemas, empty ostomy bags, collect stool specimens and assist with toileting
  • ensure the safety of their clients, themselves and others
  • communicate with clients, and observe and report on client condition.

Health care aides may work in specialized areas such as pediatric, end-of-life, dementia or brain injury programs.

Working Conditions

There is considerable physical activity involved in helping people to move, bath, dress and perform other daily activities. Health care aides may be required to lift items weighing up to 20 kilograms or be on their feet for long periods of time. Good general health, knowledge of body mechanics and proper lifting techniques are required to avoid injury.

Other working conditions in this occupation vary greatly. Health care aides may work in institutional settings or in homes ranging from comfortable to undesirable. Although many clients are pleasant and cooperative, some are difficult. Dealing with difficult clients can be frustrating and stressful.

Hours of work also vary. Since many agencies offer 24 hour service, shift work (including weekends) often is required.

Personal Characteristics

Health care aides need the following characteristics:

  • understanding, patient, gentle and non-judgmental
  • good physical and mental health
  • mature and dependable
  • able to communicate effectively and get along with people
  • willing and able to keep information about clients confidential
  • able to use tact and judgment in dealing with difficult situations
  • sensitive to the physical, social, cultural, spiritual and psychological effects of development and aging
  • respect the client's right to privacy and to be treated with dignity
  • flexible and resourceful
  • able to work relatively independently and as a member of a team
  • well organized.

Health care aides should enjoy working with and assisting people, and having clear rules and guidelines for their work.

Educational Requirements

Education requirements vary from one employer to another. Many private and public post-secondary institutions in Alberta offer short education programs for Health Care Aides. Some employers offer on on-the-job training in partnership with post-secondary institutions so you can earn a certificate while you work.

Alberta Health has developed a standard curriculum for Health Care Aide training that is offered by post-secondary education institutions throughout the province:

Program length and delivery options vary. Some institutions have full time, part time, distance, in-service or regional delivery options (for people already employed in the field). Full time programs range from 15 to 27 weeks. Some employers hire untrained individuals and offer the necessary training for new health care aides on the job.

Admission requirements vary from one program to another but, in general, applicants must:

  • be at least 18 years of age
  • successful completion of English Language Arts 10-1 or 10-2 or equivalent
  • provide a security clearance or child welfare check
  • attend an interview.

Applicants also may be required to submit an immunization record, health status check, letters of reference or a copy of their driver's license.

For current information about programs, admission requirements and mature student admission policies, please check post-secondary calendars or websites.

Section revised February 2014

Employment and Advancement

Health care aides are employed by:

  • clients
  • private agencies
  • continuing care facilities
  • government social service departments and agencies
  • not-for-profit charitable agencies
  • home care and family service associations
  • hospitals.

Those who have considerable experience may move into supervisory or management positions. However, advancement opportunities are limited without additional education.

Health care aides are part of the larger National Occupational Classification 3413: Nurse Aides, Orderlies and Patient Service Associates and the larger National Occupational Classification 6471: Visiting Homemakers, Housekeepers and Related Occupations. In Alberta, most people employed in this classification work in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Over 8,000 Albertans are employed in the Visiting Homemakers, Housekeepers and Related Occupations Associates occupational group which is expected to have an annual above average growth of 3.1 per cent from 2013 to 2017 in Alberta. It is forecasted that about 248 new positions will be created each year in addition to job openings created by employment turnover. (Note: Since health care aides form only a part of the larger occupational group on which this forecast is based, only a portion of the new positions created will be for health care aides.)

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Section revised November 2013


Salaries for health care aides vary considerably depending on the employer and the employee's responsibilities, experience and training.

According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Nurse Aides, Orderlies and Patient Service Associates occupational group earned on average from $17.32 to $21.48 an hour. The mean wage for this group was $19.13 an hour.

For more detailed information, see WAGEinfo.

For information about current collective agreements in the public and not-for-profit sectors, see the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) website.

Section revised February 2012

Other Sources of Information

Post-secondary institution calendars and websites (see Educational Requirements above)

EDinfo website:

Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) website:

Related Occupational Profiles
Audiometric Technician
Community Disability Services Practitioner
Licensed Practical Nurse
Medical Laboratory Assistant
Mental Health Aide
Patient Advocate
Sterile Processing Technician

Related High School Subjects
Health, Recreation and Human Services (Community Care Services; and Health Care Services)

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Personal and Food Services

Produced January 2011
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For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.

Government of Alberta, Human Services