Disclaimer: This blogpost is specifically targeted to help or inform students who are considering or are studying medicine, and is less tailored toward healthcare professionals or the public. This blogpost is NOT written to garner followers or to be made viral, which is why this blog will not be intentionally publicized.
As some of you already know, I spent the past two months working at a hospital as a patient care assistant. Being hospital staff, I have learnt so much just through observation and listening. Today, I would like to share with you what is required of my job as a PCA.
First of all is admin work. Contrary to what the position “Patient Care” Assistant suggests, most of the work of a PCA is actually done sitting behind the counter. The admin is known as the person who handles the computer and does all the paperwork. My job is to register patients in the system, trace their old medical records, bill patients, make sure all their details along with their diagnosis, attending doctor, and time visited are recorded into a large patient log book. The paperwork consists of various types of hospital forms, including the prescription form for medicine, x-ray form, lab form, insurance forms, Covid 19 test form, and the various charge forms (billing) for nursing procedures, disposable items, doctor consultation fees and usage of medical equipment. Then there are the phone calls, which could be internal (coming from the cashier next door, general ward, x-ray, lab, HR, marketing or any department within the hospital) or external (from patients, doctors from other hospitals, etc). You have to remember all of the extension numbers from the various departments, so that with one glance you know where the call is coming from before you even pick up the phone. When a patient comes with health insurance or a medical card, we have to call up the insurance company to check if there is coverage, then request for a guarantee letter(GL), which can take from 10 minutes up to 2 hours, by which time we would have to call up yet again to enquire about the GL status.
You might groan in boredom when you listen to all the work I have described, but there’s so much to absorb all at once, you have absolutely no time to be bored. Try it, and you will wonder how admin work can be so difficult to keep up with, especially during your first few weeks!
Secondly, a PCAs job is to do despatch work. If today I am assigned morning shift, I must make the beds or change any bedsheets or pillow cases which are dirty and send them up in a laundry bag. I must record the number of soiled linen sent up and request for new ones. Once in a while, I will also be called up to collect items from purchasing, such as gloves, face masks, small tubes for collecting blood or urine; or to send or collect medical equipment to or from CSSD (Central Sterile Services Department). I also must collect lab and x-ray reports when they are ready.
Thirdly, in light of Covid 19, more demands have been placed on healthcare personnel, namely triaging and assisting the doctor during covid screening. As an unlicensed person, I can only triage. Triaging is, in simple terms, deciding on the order of which patients should be attended to, based on the seriousness of their condition. I will ask every person that wants to enter the hospital a list of questions that checks for Covid 19 symptoms or possible contact, while wearing my complete PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
A fourth requirement is not specific to PCAs, but rather for all staff working in the emergency unit, and that is having 3 shifts. For instance, PCAs working for the specialist clinic work office hours, but I happen to be given a job as a PCA under the emergency unit, so every day I can either be doing morning, evening or night shift, depending on a duty roster that is updated weekly. Once in a while, I will also be asked to do a double shift for 14 hours straight.
Finally, we reach the part you have been waiting for: patient care! I have transfered patients with leg injuries onto a wheelchair, wheeling them from their car into the emergency unit at 2am. I have pushed patients on wheelchairs to get their x-ray done, or on beds to do a supine x-ray (lying face up), both often connected to saline drips. I have lifted a boy’s leg with a hornet sting to place a tenapad underneath; held a crying, struggling little girl’s head as the doctor did stitches on her chin; brought water for an alcoholic suffering from SOB (shortness of breath); made friendly conversation with anxious senior patients; and translated entire doctor consultations as best as I could to many mandarin-spreaking patients (I struggled to translate all the medical jargon to Mandarin, though).
I have also dealt with two particularly serious cases that I will refrain from mentioning from the time being, as those will be left to another post where I must ensure patient confidentiality, while at the same time bringing the story to you.
Those are the main five duties I have as a Patient Care Assistant! If you are a teenager and have tried working in a hospital, or even have any sort of work experience, I would be delighted to hear from you.
After all, I set up this blog for one main reason: to write the informative, or healthcare-related blogposts, from a Malaysian medical student’s perspective starting from her teenage years, that I have always wanted to read but could never find on the Internet. So I went on and did it myself! Now, I hope to bring forth the stories to you. 🙂
Small note: Although this blog is meant for everyone, my main intended audience is for my peers and next generations who are thinking of, planning to or are currently pursuing a career in healthcare, therefore much of my content will be tailored to our understanding.