Health Care Assistant 2

Health Care Assistant (HCA) Program Handbook

Develop your caregiving potential

Policies and expectations unique to the Health Care Assistant (HCA) Program  are outlined in the handbook below. Please ensure that you read the HHS Student Handbook for general school information.

Last updated: April 28


Health Care Assistant Program is a part of the School of Health and Human Services, a place of warmth and caring. We're always looking to connect with future and current students so please don't hesitate to email if you have any questions.

Once enrolled in a program, you're required to familiarize yourself with the information found in your school and program information pages.

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Note: Downloaded versions of the student handbook are valid on the date of download. Critical changes or error corrections may happen at any time. Due to COVID-19, information in the handbook may change. For the most up-to-date information about Camosun’s response to COVID-19 see Communicable Disease Prevention.

1. Welcome

Chair's Message

We, the faculty and staff of the Continuing Care department welcome you! By choosing one of our programs you are demonstrating that you care about your community and that you have an interest and commitment to working with people. During the course of your studies we will partner with you to strengthen your knowledge, skills and values in preparation for your chosen career.

We hope you'll take the time to review the information in this handbook, as well as the Health & Human Services Student Handbook. They contain Camosun College policies and procedures, student resources and other important information to assist and guide you in making your educational experience a success. Get to know the campus, your instructors and your fellow students – they will all be part of your support team.

We are delighted that you have chosen the Health Care Assistant program as your area of study and will take great pleasure in getting to know you, while we work and learn together. We hope you enjoy your experience with us, and wish you success in all that you do!

All instructors have online office hours. In addition, they can be reached by email or you can leave them a voice mail, which is operational 24 hours a day. The instructor will return your call or correspondence as soon as possible.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me, discuss them with one of your instructors, or reach out to any of the dedicated staff here at Camosun College.

Ros Giles-Pereira
Chair, Continuing Care Department

Contact the Continuing Care department.


2. Program Values

The Health Care Assistant Program is designed to provide students with opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to function effectively as front-line care-givers, and respected members of the healthcare team, in community and facility settings.

Under the direction and supervision of a health professional, graduates provide person-centred care aimed at promoting and maintaining the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social well-being of clients/residents.

Upon completion of the program, graduates are prepared to work in any level of continuing care, including: home support, adult day care, assisted living, and complex care (including special care units).

It is important to recognize that most but not all recipients of continuing care are older adults. An increasing number are in the old-old category (over 85 years of age). Many clients are experiencing advanced physical deterioration. Between 60% and 75% are experiencing moderate to severe mental decline.


3. Teaching Philosophy

3.1 Peer Group

Important sources of support within the programs are your fellow classmates. Many students find it helpful to "buddy" with another student or group of students - to study together, work together in the lab, encourage and support each other, discuss your experiences, answer each other questions. Some of the learning experiences are structured so that you will be working with another person or a small group.


4. Program Learning Outcomes

4.1 Performance Indicators

Graduates of the HCA program will demonstrate the following values, knowledge and skills.

Provide person-centred care and assistance that recognizes and respects the uniqueness of each individual resident or client: 

  1. View each resident as a whole, unique individual.
  2. Respect the individuality, independence and dignity of residents and families.
  3. Display respect and sensitivity to individuals and families from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
  4. Display a non-judgmental approach in all aspects of care provision.
  5. Support the autonomy and uniqueness of residents and their families.
  6. Encourage residents to share their thoughts, feelings and preferences.
  7. View the older person as an individual possessing a wealth of experience, knowledge and wisdom.
  8. Base care and assistance functions on the resident's unique needs, capabilities and interests.
  9. Provide clear information to the resident about the care or service to be provided and deal with questions or concerns in a calm, caring fashion.
  10. Encourage residents to be involved in their own care.
  11. Support resident independence. 
    1. Encourage residents to make choices and participate in decisions about their care, as they are able. 
    2. Encourage family involvement, as appropriate, in the care of their family member. 
    3. Observe family members for signs of stress and consult with an appropriate health care professional for direction. 
    4. Report abusive or neglectful situations promptly to a health professional for appropriate action. 

Use an informed problem-solving approach to provide care and assistance that promotes the physical, psychological, social, cognitive and spiritual well-being of residents and families: 

  1. Assess the resident and situation using informed observation, reflection and communication.
  2. Observe changes in the resident's health status and report these changes to the appropriate health care professional.
  3. Identify priorities for care within the care plan.
  4. Be guided by knowledge of health, healing, human needs and human development.
  5. Demonstrate an understanding of the interconnectedness of physical, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of health and healing.
  6. Display an understanding of the importance of the family in health & healing.
  7. Display an awareness of the role of culture, diversity and life experience in health and healing.
  8. Utilize appropriate health team members as resources to augment one's own problem- solving and decision-making.
  9. Follow the care plan for each resident.
  10. Consult with health team members to review and evaluate care and make modifications to the care plan as needed.
  11. Carry out recording requirements in a timely fashion.
  12. Use clear, current, factual, objective and relevant language when reporting or documenting resident information.
  13. Utilize creativity when required to adapt care and service to a variety of contexts.

Provide care and assistance for residents experiencing cognitive and/or mental health challenges: 

  1. Organize, administer and evaluate care and service for residents experiencing cognitive and/or mental health challenges.
  2. Base choices and actions on a sound understanding of the physical, psycho-social processes of dementia.
  3. Base choices and actions on an understanding of environmental influences on behaviours.
  4. Tailor interactions and responses based on an understanding of common mental health challenges.
  5. Cope constructively with unanticipated or unusual situations.
  6. Identify when crisis intervention skills are required and respond appropriately.

Interact with other members of the healthcare team in ways that contribute to effective working relationships and the achievement of goals:

  1. Use caring, respectful communication with all members of the health care team.
  2. Seek clarification, guidance and assistance from other health team members when needed.
  3. Contribute observations and information to care planning sessions.
  4. Communicate changes in the resident's health status to the appropriate health team member so that the care plan is kept current.
  5. Communicate with confidence and appropriate assertiveness.
  6. Offer support and assistance to other health team members as appropriate.
  7. Report and record relevant information in a clear, concise and objective manner.
  8. Use appropriate lines of communication in accordance with agency, facility or employer standards and policies.
  9. Identify problems, concerns and conflict within the health team and discuss these with appropriate team members in a timely function.
  10. Approach problems or conflict in a non-threatening way.
  11. Respond non-defensively to criticism or confrontation.

Communicate clearly, accurately and in sensitive ways with residents and families: 

  1. Demonstrate an ability to write and speak English in a manner that can be easily understood.
  2. Use English in such a way as to be clearly understood.
  3. Use appropriate volume, tone and vocabulary.
  4. Use language and a communication style that is appropriate to the resident, family or situation.
  5. Identify barriers to communication and make efforts to improve communication.
  6. Interact in a manner that respects the rights, needs, interests and preferences of others.
  7. Observe common courtesies such as addressing the resident and family member by name of choice and speaking in a manner to be readily understood.
  8. Use touch appropriately and respectfully.
  9. Use humour appropriately.
  10. Maintain appropriate interpersonal and professional boundaries.
  11. Respect and adapt to a family and resident's cultural background.
  12. Recognize non-verbal communication.
  13. Use non-verbal attending skills including eye contact, body positioning and attentive facial expression.
  14. Use active listening skills.
  15. Use appropriate self-disclosure.
  16. Utilize effective approaches to conflict management.
  17. Demonstrate an understanding of the stresses experienced by residents and families as they are reflected in communication patterns.
  18. Recognize abusive communication and report in accordance with agency/ facility or employer standards and policies.

Provide personal care and assistance in a safe, competent and organized manner: 

  1. Wear safe and appropriate clothing, including identification.
  2. Adhere to the resident's care plan.
  3. Assess the resident and the environment prior to commencing care.
  4. Adjust environments, as appropriate, to ensure safety and to promote efficiency.
  5. Set priorities or make adjustments to the care process based on resident requirements.
  6. Organize and implement care according to resident needs.
  7. Organize time and equipment for safety and efficiency.
  8. Base choices and actions on a sound knowledge of asepsis and body mechanics.
  9. Adhere to infection control practices.
  10. Report, verbally and in writing, unsafe work environments.
  11. Encourage independence of the client/resident as much as possible.
  12. Encourage family involvement in care whenever possible.
  13. Recognize and make wise choices in situations of potential risk to self or others.
  14. Encourage resident communication and engagement during personal care.
  15. Maintain resident privacy and dignity.
  16. Assist the resident with personal hygiene and grooming.
  17. Assist the resident with movement and ambulation.
  18. Use aids to promote comfort, relaxation and sleep.
  19. Take and record vital signs accurately.
  20. Provide specialized, sensitive care for the dying resident in line with palliative care principles.
  21. Exhibit flexible and adaptable behaviour.

Recognize and respond to own self-development, learning and health enhancement needs:

  1. Identify own learning and personal/ professional development needs.
  2. Invite feedback from other health team members related to own performance.
  3. Collaborate with appropriate health professionals to identify and utilize opportunities for specific learning and training enhancement.
  4. Identify and utilize opportunities to learn from residents, families, and colleagues.
  5. Share new learning with other health team members.
  6. Reflect on own choices and behaviours as they contribute to physical, psychological, social, cognitive and spiritual health.
  7. Strive to demonstrate increasingly healthful self-care practices.

Perform the care-giver role in a reflective, responsible, accountable and professional manner:

  1. Comply with legal parameters of practice for HCA.
  2. Foster and uphold the mission, policies and standards of the care facility.
  3. Collaborate with other members of the health team.
  4. Use appropriate lines of communication.
  5. Clarify one's own role to others when necessary.
  6. Demonstrate dependability, reliability, honesty and integrity. 
  7. Reflect on one's own values, beliefs and standards in relation to care-giving practice. 
  8. Recognize how one's own beliefs, values, standards and cultural background may be different or similar to those of residents, and families. 
  9. Recognize how one's own beliefs and values influence one's responses to residents, families and situations. 
  10. Maintain a non-judgmental position in light of difficult or unusual resident or family situations. 
  11. Advocate on behalf of the rights, needs, interests and fair treatment of residents and their families. 
  12. Maintain resident and family confidentiality. 
  13. Set appropriate personal boundaries in interactions with residents and family members. 
  14. Promote own personal safety, health and well-being. 
  15. Challenge questionable actions or decisions made by other health team members. 
  16. Champion the role of the HCA on the healthcare team. 

Provide care and assistance for residents experiencing complex health challenges: 

  1. Base choices and actions on a sound understanding of normal anatomy and physiology and common changes associated with aging. 
  2. Base choices and actions on a sound understanding of common challenges to health and healing. 
  3. Organize, administer and evaluate care and service for residents with complex health challenges. 
  4. Assist residents and families to maintain independent functioning within their capabilities. 
  5. Provide caring and supportive end-of-life care for residents in a manner that promotes comfort and dignity. 


5. Professional Behaviour

5.2 Appropriate Use of Electronic Devices/Mobile Devices

In the classroom cell phones should be turned off, removed from the desk and put away unless being use for an instructor-led activity.
In the clinical environment, cell phones need to be used appropriately and in accordance with existing college or organizational policies and procedures, professional codes of conduct and provincial and federal legislation. Users will be held accountable for any and all violations to the above.

Ensuring the confidentiality of patient information, providing the highest level of care and maintaining the highest standards of professional behaviour need to be respected when using personal mobile devices. Therefore, in the absence of organizational polices &/or in addition to, the following guidelines are intended for all faculty and students. These guidelines will be reviewed and updated by the Continuing Care Department on an annual basis. In exceptional circumstances when it is determined appropriate for a student to use a cell phone in a clinical setting, the following applies:

Infection Control and Mobile Devices

  • Wash hands or use alcohol based sanitizer before and after each use of your personal mobile device
  • Apply a cover with smooth surface to protect your personal mobile device and facilitate cleaning
  • Clean your personal mobile device daily following established infection control protocols

Confidentiality and Mobile Devices

  • Do not view or access any patient information on your personal mobile device.
  • Do not do any audio recording on your personal mobile device within the clinical facility.
  • Do not take any pictures or video on your personal mobile device within the clinical facility.
  • Do not send any identifiable patient information over your personal mobile device.

Professionalism and Mobile Devices

  • Use a low tone of voice when using your personal mobile device.
  • The ring feature of your personal mobile device will be turned off while in the clinical facility. You may use the vibrate mode or silent mode.
  • Delay checking or answering your mobile device when you are with patients.
  • Use of your personal mobile device for professional reasons should occur in an appropriate discreet location.
  • Personal use of your personal mobile device should occur during your breaks and away from patient care areas.
  • If you are unclear about the use of your personal mobile device then it should not be used until you are able to confirm its appropriate use within that clinical facility.
  • All communication done via your personal mobile device, whether verbal or electronic, should occur in a professional manner.
  • Do not share your personal contact information with patients or their families.
  • You have an ethical responsibility to bring forward, to the Continuing Care Department , any concerns you observe about the inappropriate use of a personal mobile device


6. Classroom, Lab, or Clinic Etiquette

6.1 Grading Systems

Graduation Criteria

Students must achieve a minimum of 70% (B-) in each theory course and each clinical placement must be successfully completed and passed in order to graduate from the program. The School reserves the right to change or cancel any provision or requirement at any time.

Re-entry to the Program

The HCA program must be completed within 18 months of starting the program.

Students who are re-entering the HCA program to complete practicum (s) after more than a three month break are required to audit their most recent lab skills course in order to demonstrate safety and competence with hands-on skills. Attendance in class and lab is mandatory and satisfactory demonstration of skill checks and case studies is required in order to be offered a seat in practicum.

The British Columbia Care Aide and Community Health Worker Registry requires that “…no more than three months elapses between the completion of lab skills coursework and the start of practice education. In cases where there is a period of more than 3 months, students are required to re-take coursework and/or be re-tested on their lab skills” (2018).

6.2 Testing and Assignments

Test and Examination Procedures

There are policies regarding written test and examination procedures including late arrivals and missed tests. Please see the Health and Human Services Student Manual for Test and Examination Procedures.

Written Assignments

Assignments are due before 2400 hours (midnight) on the assigned day unless otherwise specified. Assignments about patients, residents or clients must be completed using the individual’s initials only. Unless otherwise directed by individual course syllabi, assignments must be: word processed, double spaced, 12 font, Times New Roman font, with a title page and a reference list. Students requiring an extension for the due date of an assignment must negotiate with the instructor, at least 48 hours before the due date. Assignments submitted late without an approved extension will result in a 5% deduction in mark for each day late.

6.3 Dress Code and Guidelines

The manner in which you care for and present yourself reflects your respect for the residents and staff with whom you work. It is important to present a clean, neat, and tidy image of yourself as a caregiver and as a representative of the HCA program.
The goals of the Dress Code are to:

  • Identify individuals as Camosun College faculty and students.
  • Promote the safety of the client, the faculty member and the student.
  • Promote and maintain infection prevention and control.

HCA students are expected to comply with the dress code, as outlined below. Failure to comply with this guideline may result in the student being asked to leave the practice setting.

Long-Term Care Clinical Settings

  • HCA students are required to wear a Camosun College HCA scrub top with black scrub pants. Ensure that pants are hemmed above the heel line.
  • The Camosun College name tag must be worn and visible at all times
  • A washable cardigan or undershirt is permitted
    • No more than ¾ length sleeves (must not be longer than 2 inches below the elbow)
    • Tight to skin
    • White, black, or the colour of the uniform
  • Uniforms and religious head coverings must be clean, wrinkle-free and washed in-between each clinical day in a hot water wash.
  • A clean uniform may be worn as you travel to or from the clinical setting in your own vehicle.
  • Uniforms must not be worn if travelling on public transit.
  • Requirements for shoes, hair and jewellery (listed below) must be followed

Within Island Health Settings

  • Island Health issued photo ID badge must be visible at all times.
  • No part of the uniform will be worn outside of the clinic setting. Therefore, faculty members and students must change into and out of uniforms on-site.

Community Clinical Settings

  • Appropriate dress for community experiences may be unique to the placement. Students will consult with the faculty member and organization to discuss required dress.
  • This clothing must be neat and clean and should not leave your role, actions or intentions open to misinterpretation. This clothing must also enable you to participate fully in activities and situations where you may need to move quickly (e.g. run).
  • Abdomens, backs, chests, shoulders and thighs should be fully covered through all range of movement.
  • All other requirements are the same as for hospital and long-term care clinical settings

CHW Health Care Labs

  • Students may wear scrubs or casual attire for lab classes and for open lab practice in the CHW.
  • Abdomens, backs, chests, shoulders and thighs should be fully covered through all range of movement.
  • Requirements for shoes, hair and jewellery (listed below) must be followed.
  • The dress code for clinical settings also applies during Case Studies.

Shoes: All Clinical and Lab Settings

  • Shoes must be in good condition with low heels, closed heels and toes, uppers that can be washed or wiped down (leather or similar materials), and soles with good traction (rubberized sole with ribbed, dimpled or grooved surface).
  • By definition, footwear with mesh, canvas or cloth topsides are NOT appropriate as they do not protect the wearer from the hazards identified by WorkSafeBC (2017).
  • For infection prevention and control purposes, clinical shoes must be worn exclusively in the clinical setting, never outside of it.
  • Alternative shoes (Work Safe BC compliant and as listed above) for community and lab settings must be worn.

Hair, Nails, and Jewellery: All Clinical and Lab Settings

  • Hair must be clean, neat and kept up off collar and face. Long hair must be tied back or in a bun (no long ponytails). No hair extensions may be worn in practicum.
  • Facial hair must be neatly trimmed and fit within a mask.
  • Religious head coverings must be secured so that they do not fall into the faculty member's/student's face or onto the client.
  • Nails must be short, trimmed and rounded in shape. No artificial nails or nail polish.
  • No jewellery is permitted in a clinical area, with the following possible exceptions: Medi-alert bracelets/necklaces; a single plain ring with no stones or carvings; facial piercings (including ears) are to be small studs only, with no bars or rings.
  • Wrist watches are not allowed. For students who wish to wear a watch, it must be clip-on or pin-on.
  • No wearing of perfume/body spray, scented lotion, scented deodorant or scented hairspray.
  • Unpleasant body odours from poor hygiene are unacceptable. Please remember to bathe and use deodorant.

This dress code guideline is in compliance with:

  • WorkSafeBC. (2017). Part 08 Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment Policy.
  • Policies of Infection Prevention and Control, Hand Hygiene, and Personal Appearance of Island Health Authority of Island Health; and policies of other nursing practice community partners.

6.4 Clinic/Lab Information

Please note: All HCA students must read and understand practice guidelines prior to commencing each practicum situation. Any questions for clarification may be directed to the practicum instructors.

  • HCA students are considered supernumerary on any unit to which they are assigned. They will not take the place of paid personnel.
  • Students may perform all procedures independently after they have been determined competent to do so by the instructor. Approval will be given to students either verbally or in writing.
  • Students may use mechanical tubs without supervision after the instructor has been satisfied that they are competent and safe. There must always be two people present when using mechanical devices even after the student has been deemed competent.
  • When using mechanical devices and mechanical transfer devices, students must be supervised by regular staff or an instructor until the student has been certified competent and safe. There must always be two people present when using mechanical devices even after the student has been certified competent. The second person may be another student who has also been deemed competent by the instructor.
  • Students must always notify the instructor of any safety incidents that occur in the practicum setting.
  • Students may perform one person transfers without supervision once the instructor is satisfied with the students' competencies in this skill.
  • Students will respect a resident/client's right to confidentiality at all times.
  • Students will wear their student identification when doing home, community or facility visits.
  • Students may not witness consents or any other legal documents.
  • Students will not chew gum at any time while in practicum, community or transition practicums.
  • If a student is going to be late or absent from a practicum shift, they must phone the practicum site prior to the shift starting. They must also leave their name and a contact number where the instructor can call them.
  • If an instructor does not arrive at the practicum site for any reason, students must depart from the site immediately. After leaving the site, students should phone the instructor for further direction.


7. Practicum Guidelines

Students will find information on their practicum expectations within their practical skills and practicum course materials. Consult with your instructor or Chair if you are unable to locate your supporting documents.

  1. Clinical and Community Placement Protocol
  2. Student Safety and orientations on practicums
  3. Practice Guidelines/Professional Standards of Practice
  4. Practice Appraisals

7.1 Student Safety and Orientations on Practicums

Behaviour endangering the client

Because the people that our students look after are in a vulnerable position, we MUST be absolutely sure that their safety is secure. Consequently, when a student in the clinical setting puts the client in physical or emotional jeopardy, this will be considered a very serious matter.

Physical Jeopardy: any action or inaction on the part of the student which threatens the client's physical well-being. Such behaviours may include those which endanger the physical safety of the client, such as interference with essential care, failure to carry out required care, failure to behave in a responsible or accountable manner.

Emotional Jeopardy: any action or inaction on the part of the student which threatens the client's emotional well-being. Such behaviours may include interpersonal communications which belittle or demean the client or practices which blatantly defile the dignity of the client.

Any time a safety error occurs during the clinical experience, the student involved will be asked to fill out a Conference Form. If the safety error results in injury to the student or others, then a facility incident report must also be completed. Copies of all incident reports are placed on the student's file.

In situations where a student is displaying behaviour which places the client in physical or emotional jeopardy, the instructor will follow the Continuing Care Policy on Documentation of Concerns. The student will be clearly informed of the behaviour required for continuance in the clinical experience. If behaviour continues that places the client in physical or emotional jeopardy, the student can be required to leave the clinical site.

NOTE: Students who are found to be unsafe to self or others, or demonstrate unethical, unprofessional behaviour in the clinical area may be asked to leave the setting for the remainder of that day. The student, the program instructors and the Chair will subsequently meet to discuss the student's performance and develop a recommendation for remediation.

Examples of unsafe, unethical and unprofessional practice include, but are not limited to:

  • arriving at the clinical site setting smelling of alcohol and/or behaving as though intoxicated and/or incapacitated by consumption of prescription or elicit drugs
  • stealing from clients/staff
  • destroying, defacing or otherwise knowingly damaging property assaulting or threatening to assault another person
  • harassing other students, faculty members, facility/agency staff members or clients illness which interferes with the assumption of responsibilities
  • not knowing own limits and not seeking help appropriately
  • inadequate preparation for patient care
  • not reporting significant client information to appropriate health care professional (e.g. nurse) dishonesty
  • inappropriate behaviour toward clients, peers, staff or instructor (i.e. swearing, foul or course language) implementing unsafe care

Serious disregard of program policies includes such things as:

  • not implementing standard safety principles in performance of lifts and transfers consequently endangering client safety
  • operating a mechanical lift without supervision
  • feeding a client who is at risk of choking in the client's room without supervision

If the student is temporarily removed from the clinical area, the instructor must inform the Program Leader or designate who may consult with the appropriate Chair regarding the conditions for return to the clinical assignment. The student will be advised of these conditions in writing. The student can appeal this action through the Student Appeal Procedure.


8. Info for Graduates

8.1 Licensing & Professional Association Information

BC Care Aide & Community Health Care Registry

Graduates must apply to the BC Care Aide & Community Health Care Registry and obtain a registry number in order to work as a Health Care Assistant in BC.