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Health Care Assistant

Health Care Assistants (HCAs) provide support for patients with physical or mental health issues who need permanent or temporary care in facilities such as retirement homes, hospices, group homes, and acute care facilities. Health Care Assistants are an invaluable part of the Canadian healthcare system.

CDI College's HCA program teaches students to respond to the emotional, psychological, and physical needs of the client, to assist the client in interacting with family members, and to support the client's personal care such as bathing and hygiene. Students put the classroom work into practice as part of the mandatory practicum placement, which will equip them with the real-world skills they need succeed.

Graduates of the program become skilled communicators who are able to listen and understand their clients while providing exceptional healthcare services. To graduate with an HCA diploma, students must complete the clinical training. Combined with the Career and Employment Strategies and Student Success Strategies courses, the HCA program equips graduates with the knowledge and techniques to create a successful career in the healthcare industry.

The Health Care Assistant program delivered by CDI College is recognized by the BC Care Aide & Community Health Worker Registry. Graduates of the Health Care Assistant program delivered by CDI College are eligible for registration with the BC Care Aide & Community Health Worker Registry. The Health Care Assistant Provincial Curriculum 2015 will be implemented for all program starts after September 1, 2016.

Admissions Requirements

Students must meet all of the pre-requisites listed below, meet their financial obligations with the college, and acknowledge their understanding of the college’s policies and procedures provided in the student handbook, prior to starting classes.

  • High school graduation or equivalent, or mature student status.
  • Pass college's admissions test.
  • Criminal record check (in accordance with the Criminal Records Review Act).
  • Immunization report (form provided by college).
  • English 10 or equivalent (see final page of this program outline).

Program Courses

BC-ORIENT - School and Program Orientation
This session welcomes you to the college, introduces you to your fellow classmates, faculty, and staff, reviews the policies and procedures related to your studies, and prepares the student for their learning experience.
BC-HCA-ITC - Introduction to Technology
Computer skills are one of the key essential skills for success in the workplace and upon completion of the HCA program, graduates should be prepared to use current computer technology in accordance with workplace standards. While the specific technology used by HCAs will be dependent on their place of employment, baseline knowledge of computers and technology will help to prepare them to assume their workplace role. Fundamental computer skills include basic knowledge of computers, word processing, and electronic communications using the internet and e-mail; additional computer-related concepts applicable to HCAs are respectful and appropriate use of digital communication and technology in the workplace. This course provides information and training of these fundamental concepts, targeted resources to support the student’s self-development, and additional training for using the college’s learning management system, online library resources and electronic textbooks, and an introduction to the tablet technology and Microsoft Office 365 software suite. Throughout the HCA program, students utilize technology (electronic books, online library, tablet/computers), use e-mail to communicate with instructors and submit assignments, internet for research and class activities, and use MS Office software to prepare letters and resumes, reports/assignments, and presentations. Multiple resources are provided during this course for students to read and practise their skills throughout the HCA program.
BC-HCA-PRD - Academic Success Strategies for Care Aides & Community Health Workers
The purpose of this course is to optimize learning through equipping students with effective study techniques. This course also provides an introduction to personality styles that will be encountered in the workplace and allows students to practice appropriate and productive interaction between the various styles. Emphasis is placed on the types of communication that work best with each style in order to achieve a good working relationship and to manage and resolve conflicts that arise. Students are also introduced to strategies for setting personal goals, managing time, and managing the stress that results from study or work and builds on positive group dynamics and setting expectations for student success. HCAs often work with teams and clients in a variety of healthcare and community settings. Theory, practical exercises, and activities in this course attribute to residential, community, and acute care health settings.
BC-HCA-PROF - Introduction to the Health Care Assistant Program
This course/session provides an introduction to the Health Care Assistant program by providing an overview of the courses, work experience components, schedule, and expectations of students. The course also provides an overview of the provincial curriculum’s values, beliefs, and principles; purpose; and learning outcomes. Guest presenters (e.g. graduate of the HCA program, employer of HCAs) will be available for presentation, questions and answers, and the steps required to work as a health care assistant in any public health setting in BC – including registration with the BC Care Aide & Community Health Worker Registry.
BC-HCA-CP - Health and Healing: Concepts for Practice
This course provides students with the opportunity to develop a theoretical framework for practice. Students will be introduced to the philosophical values and theoretical understandings that provide a foundation for competent practice as an HCA. The course focuses on concepts of caring and person-centred care; basic human needs and human development; family, culture, and diversity as they relate to health and healing. Students will also be introduced to a problem-solving model that will be critical to their practice.
PD-WHMIS - WHMIS
Canadian law requires that any person exposed to hazardous materials in the workplace must be trained in the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). This course has been developed to meet and exceed the Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. WHMIS 2015 training includes the new Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling for chemicals (GHS), as well as WHMIS legislation introduced in 1988.
PD-SFA-CPRC - Standard First Aid with CPR-C and AED
This two-day course suited for the general public and workplace and meets first aid requirements for Canada Labour Code Standard First Aid, and Licenced Child and Adult Care Facilities. This course is suited for police, first responders, lifeguards, ski patrollers, caring citizens and families with children.
BC-HCA-IP - Health Care Assistant: Introduction to Practice
This course provides an introduction to the role of the HCA within the British Columbia health care system. Students will be introduced to the health care team and the roles and functions of HCAs within the team in residential, community, and acute care settings. Students will also have opportunities to develop self-reflective skills required for competent practice and will be introduced to effective job-finding approaches.
BC-HCA-COM - Health 1: Interpersonal Communications
This course focuses on the development of self-awareness, increased understanding of others, and development of effective interpersonal communication skills that can be used in a variety of caregiving contexts. Students will be encouraged to become more aware of the impact of their own communication choices and patterns. They will have opportunities to develop and use communication techniques that demonstrate personal awareness, respect, and active listening skills.
PD-WVP - Violence Prevention for Provincial Health Care Workers
All health authority and Providence Health Care employees must complete these modules to ensure credit is received for completing the curriculum and for HCA students, this online course prepares them as employees. Modules include an overview of types of violence and their impacts; recognizing and responding to risk; interventions in acute care, community care, and residential care; communication basics; de-escalation; responding to physical violence; post-incident response; and behaviour care planning for violence prevention. Students are guided in setting up their training and provided this session to begin the modules, ask for assistance, and plan their schedule. Students should expect they will need additional time (in a computer lab or online at home) to complete the modules.
BC-HCA-LC - Health 2: Lifestyle Choices
This course introduces students to a holistic concept of health and the components of a health-enhancing lifestyle. Students will be invited to reflect on their own experience of health, recognizing challenges and resources that can impact lifestyle choices. Students will be introduced to a model that can be applied in other courses to understand the multi-faceted aspects of health and healing.
PD-FOOD1 - FoodSafe™ Level 1
The BC Health Act: Food Premises Regulation states that every operator of a food service establishment, and at least one employee on every shift, must hold a FOODSAFE Level 1 certificate. For health care workers (such as HCAs), their roles and responsibilities may include providing meals and being aware of the food services in many settings, including situations where they will be working alone, providing home care, and others. This session, provided by a certified trainer, is an eight-hour required face-to-face certification for British Columbia’s food safety, handling, and sanitation training. The course follows the resources set forth by the BC Ministry of Advanced Education
BC-HCA-CHC - Healing 1: Caring for Individual Experiencing Common Health Challenges
This course introduces students to the normal structure and function of the human body and normal bodily changes associated with aging. Students will explore common challenges to health and healing in relation to each body system. Students will also be encouraged to explore person-centred practice as it relates to the common challenges to health. While learning about specific health challenges, the role of the HCA and how it may change in the acute care setting (depending on client acuity and intensity) is addressed.
BC-HCA-PALL - Healing 1: Caring for Individuals in Palliative Care
In this course, students will explore common challenges to health particularly with person-centered, end-of-life care. The course provides students with the necessary resources and tools to respond to the needs of the dying and their families, using practical strategies, stories of caregiving, and real-life scenarios. Students will increase their confidence and competence in providing compassionate care for the dying.
BC-HCA-COG - Healing 2: Caring for Individuals Experiencing Cognitive Challenges - Dementia
This course builds on content from other courses to assist students in exploring concepts and caregiving approaches that will allow them to work effectively with individuals experiencing cognitive challenges (and decline) and demonstrating effective approaches to disruptive or abusive behaviours. The emphasis in this course is on supporting clients with dementia, recognizing responsive behaviours and identifying person-centered intervention strategies.
BC-HCA-MNT - Healing 2: Caring for Individuals Experiencing Cognitive and Mental Challenges
This course builds on content from other courses to assist students in exploring concepts and caregiving approaches that will allow them to work effectively with individuals experiencing mental challenges and also care for the family (other than dementia, which is covered in BC-HCA-COG). Students learn about the causes and treatments for some of the more common mental health disorders, appreciate the myths and stigmas associated with them, as well as distinguishing cultural perceptions. The course addresses current issues in mental health care, such as applications of the Mental Health Act, suicide risks and prevention, and general principles of mental health care and the various health care settings. It is important to note this is only an introductory course that introduces the field of mental health and how the HCA is involved within the health care team.
PD-MHFA - Mental Health First Aid Basic
Mental health first aid (MHFA) is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate professional treatment is received or until the crisis is resolved. Mental Health First Aid Basic is a 12-hour course focused on adults interacting with adults in all environments. The course discusses the following mental disorders: substance-related disorders, mood-related disorders, anxiety- and trauma-related disorders, and psychotic disorders. Critical first aid skills for the following situations are learned: substance overdose, suicidal behaviour, panic attack, acute stress reaction, and psychotic episode.
BC-HCA-ACU - The Acute Care Environment
Throughout the HCA program, students are introduced to the acute care environment in their theory and lab coursework. It is the health authority employers who are responsible for providing HCAs hired into acute care settings with opportunities for structured and ongoing mentorships in order to transition them effectively into this environment. This course acts as a summary of the acute care content incorporated into the HCA program and presents the realistic expectations of an HCA’s role and the specific role in your local health authority. A representative from a regional health authority will describe the scope of an HCA’s practice in an acute care setting and the employment skills and potential jobs in the area. Students will have the opportunity to ask questions and have opportunities to demonstrate or practise any tasks they feel need improvement.
BC-HCA-PCA - Healing 3: Personal Care and Assistance I
This practical course offers students the opportunity to acquire personal care and assistance skills within the parameters of the HCA role. The course is comprised of class and supervised laboratory experiences, which assist the student in integrating theory from other courses to develop caregiver skills that maintain and promote the comfort, safety, and independence of individuals in community and facility contexts. The course is structured into seven modules (and 24 sessions) to allow flexible scheduling through the program.
BC-HCA-MED - Healing 3: Personal Care and Assistance: Assisting with Medications for Assisted Living
This course introduces students to common types of medications and how the HCA can assist with these medications with clients for clients who are able to direct their own care. In all aspects of medication administration, the role of the HCA is clearly defined, including the principle of delegated tasks. Students learn to read labels and understand documentation used (e.g. MARs); observing and reporting untoward effects of clients to medication; the rights of assisting with medications and the individual’s rights to refuse; and legislation (Mental Health Act) related to medication administration. Students earn a certificate, Assisting with Medications for Assisted Living, upon successful completion of (1) this course; and (2) Module 6 Session 22 (Personal Care and Assistance course) on assisting with medications – this module should follow this theory course.
PD-SPECO - Standard Practice Education Core Orientation
The Student Practice Education ‘Core’ Orientation (SPECO) is a mandatory online course for all students who will be completing HCA practicum placements. Students are directed how to access the course during this session, and facilitation from your instructor while it is being completed. This orientation has 12 sections with short videos and learning activities. Once completed, the student will receive a certificate from the college.
BC-HCA-CPE1 - Practice Experience in Multi-Level or Complex Care
This is the first of two work experience components of the Health Care Assistant program. This supervised practice experience provides students with an opportunity to apply knowledge and skills from all other courses in the program with individuals in a multi-level or complex care setting. A portion of this clinical experience will be devoted to working with individuals with dementia. Opportunity will be provided for students to gain expertise and confidence with the role of the HCA within a residential care facility. Students must meet all of the requirements prior to entering this clinical practice (see Work Experience Guide and your instructor for details.) It may also be necessary to have an interview with the host organization, as well as agree to the terms within the training plan, before being accepted at the site. Your instructor and Placement Coordinator will have met with you while classroom studies were still being delivered. An orientation activity on-site (e.g. search and find activity) when possible for important items and information at the clinical site. Pre- and post-conference sessions are held where students gather with the clinical instructor to discuss topics and issues related to their clinical placement. Students are encouraged to identify scenarios where they faced a challenge related to communication with a client, family member, or staff member and how they used the problem-solving/decision-making process to identify and analyze the problem. Students are also assigned to maintain a reflective journal of their experience where they record observations, challenges, and other information which can be used to synthesize their learning.
BC-HCA-CPE2 - Practice Experience in Home Support, Assisted Living, or Group Home Settings
This is the second of two work experience components of the Health Care Assistant program. This practice course provides students with an opportunity to apply knowledge and skills from all other courses with individuals and families in a community setting. Opportunity will be provided for students to become more familiar with the role of the HCA within a home support agency, assisted living facility, and/or a group home, and to gain abilities that will prepare graduates for employment in these settings. It is important that students understand the philosophy of community care settings and its emphasis on client choice and independence. Students must meet all of the requirements prior to entering this practicum (see Work Experience Guide and your instructor for details.) It may also be necessary to have an interview with the host organization, as well as agree to the terms within the training plan, before being accepted at the site. Your instructor and Placement Coordinator will have met with you while classroom studies were still being delivered. Students will maintain a reflective journal of this work experience, conduct a safety assessment, and prepare a report of the challenges and person-centred goals they have developed for a client. At the conclusion of this work experience, students will return to the college for a debrief session.
BC-HCA-CES - Career and Employment Strategies
This course helps the student get organized, set priorities and goals, and prepare a final version of their resume, find and follow employment leads, prepare a letter of application, solidify the definition of their skills and abilities, and practice with mock interview situations. Students will also research and be provided resources to assist them in identifying current job openings, focus on the working environment they prefer, and have realistic expectations for entering an exciting new career as an HCA.