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Sprott Shaw Blog

What’s the Difference Between a Practical Nurse and a Health Care Assistant?

Posted March 10, 2015, by Sprott Shaw College. Tags: ,


nursing-adjusted-compressedPractical nursing gives you the necessary education to become a licenced nurse. Following the guidelines laid out in British Columbia’s College of Licensed Practicing Nurses (CLNPBC), all of the skills learned through our program will put you in a good standing to take the required exams to become a licenced practical nurse (LPN). After which you’ll be able to work for and in a wide variety of roles in the health care industry. From working in a hospital alongside doctors and patients to more specialized roles in residential care, practical nurses will find themselves trained to help patients as a health care worker and a nurse.

A health care assistant (HCA) is more of a generalist. They receive training similar to that of the practical nurses just with an emphasis on support and administration. Health care assistants have less to do with specimen sampling, wound care and vital signs monitoring nurses find themselves involved with. The HCA program is also shorter than the practical nursing course, so it’s great for those who want to get from education to the workplace as soon as possible.

Heath care assistants find themselves working in hospitals, rest homes or within the local community. With courses in hospice-palliative care, interpersonal (medical) communication and lifestyle choices, a HCA can find work helping out elderly patients, acting as a go between for health care workers and the public, or as a patient educator within the health care industry.

Overall, the main difference between the two is the outcome you’re looking for. Are you looking for a more general education with an administrative role? Or would you rather work alongside doctors in a hospital with patients? The answers to those questions will likely illuminate which course fits you best.