Agency Q&A: Jewish Family Services’ Personal Care Aide Training Program

United Way works with 40+ local and regional nonprofit agencies to tackle each of our nine Steps to Success. We invite you to get to know these agencies and learn about their partnership with United Way. This month, we’re featuring leaders from agencies whose work supports the College- or Career-ready Step. We’re proud to present our Q&A with Wendy Kreuter, Chief Executive Officer of Jewish Family Services. 

By Wendy Kreuter
Chief Executive Officer
Jewish Family Services

Tell us about Jewish Family Services’ Personal Care Aide Training School.

The Greater Richmond Age Wave predicts that by 2030, the number of people over age 65 will double and those over age 85 will triple. This increase in Richmond’s senior population will also lead to dramatic increases in the need for in-home care for the seniors as they age and need help with the basic life skills of walking, bathing, dressing, cooking and housekeeping. Finding good in-home care is the answer that gives the senior the support they need while also gaining independence, mobility and engagement with others.

A Personal Care Aide (PCA) is a certified home care aide who works in the home with a client who needs help with basic life skills. It is an entry point into the healthcare field for someone who is interested in caring for people. In order to become a PCA, you must complete a 40 hour training curriculum mandated by the Commonwealth of Virginia and pass a written test.

Jewish Family Services’ (JFS) mission is Transforming Lives and Strengthening our Community. JFS recognized that by offering PCA training, we would give the participants the opportunity to gain the training and the certification as a Personal Care Aide. And when the participants completed the course and got their certifications, they could immediately start to work with our senior clients. For us, it would transform the lives of the seniors with compassionate care. For the course participants, the training would set them on the path of a whole new healthcare career with an immediate job when training was completed, thus transforming their futures.

We have held 4 PCA training courses so far at our offices on Patterson Avenue. The JFS training course is 46 hours, not the minimum 40 hours, because we have added extra cooking classes, an extra lab on helping with movement and ambulation and a focus on engaging and building a relationship with the client. 82% of our participants graduate and so far graduates of our PCA School have worked almost 11,000 hours with JFS clients. The courses are limited to 12 participants to assure that every class member gets the hands-on time and attention they need to gain the skills they will use when they graduate.  Participants learn from nurses, occupational and physical therapists and current PCAs who work with JFS clients. When the classwork is completed and the participants have passed the written test, we hold a celebration in honor of the participants receiving their PCA certifications.

How does this program support the College- or Career-ready component of United Way’s Steps to Success?

For a high school graduate who has a strong interest in caring for others and who is not looking to immediately attend a two- or four-year college or training program, training to be a PCA allows them to gain their certification after only 46 hours of rigorous training and passing the written test. According to PCAs currently working in the field, the five qualifications most needed are service orientation, social perceptiveness, active listening, speaking and monitoring. It is a position that offers a starting place in the fast-growing healthcare field for someone wanting to start their career.

For someone looking to re-enter the workforce or make a career change, the PCA training program is a good option for many of the same reasons. The person with a strong interest in caring for others and the ability to be patient and understanding will do well working with clients after the relatively brief 46 hour training course.

Employment of PCAs is expected to increase by 37% between 2016 and 2026, much faster than the average rate for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2026, there should be 754,000 new PCA positions nationwide compared to today. As an entry level position, the PCA training and work naturally lead to the training for Nursing Assistant or Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). From these positions, there are a variety of directions to go in a healthcare career: nursing, specialized technical assistants and other roles in private medical practices as well as hospitals depending on the person’s interests.

 What are some of the greatest successes you have seen so far?

We have had 20 people graduate from the PCA training school Classes so far. Several people have begun their work as PCAs and very quickly taken the additional training to become Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) while still working with JFS. The CNA is a more medical role, and in one case the person sought out more training and has become a Respiratory Therapy Tech–all within one year. Many of our PCA Training School graduates are still working as PCAs with JFS clients and love the work that they are doing.

LaTonya, a graduate of the August 2017 PCA School reflects, “The PCA School was a challenge, but graduation was one of the happiest days of my life”.

LaTonya has worked full time as a PCA for JFS since her graduation. Our clients love her personalized attention and can-do attitude. In order to have LaTonya as his Aide, one senior was willing to wait for her to finish an assignment with another client in order to have her back. The JFS team respects her flexibility, communication skills, and positive outlook.  She is a very successful PCA!

Describe the ideal prospective PCA trainee. Are there any prerequisites?

You must be 18 years or older and must have a high school diploma or equivalent. The prerequisites are good reading and writing skills, good communication skills, ability to follow directions and service orientation. The successful PCA trainee is interested in healthcare, has a caring heart and enjoys working with people.

 How can someone sign up to participate in this program?

We have a PCA training class coming up in October. If you would like to know more, please email Brian Strauss at bstrauss@jfsrichmond.org.  You can also learn more on our website, www.jfsrichmond.org

More Information: