Tips for Recruiting PCAs

Posted by on Jan 20, 2019 in Blog, Lifestyle | 0 comments

I often get asked for tips and advice for recruiting PCAs (Personal Care Attendants). I admit, I was once excellent at recruiting them and it wasn’t unusual for me to have a difficult time deciding on who to hire. Ah, those were the glory days.

Unfortunately, due to a rapid decline in the state of the home care industry and the lack of liveable, adequate and well-deserved wages, the glory days are gone. Recruiting has been a never ending cycle and I have had an average of 50% of my positions unfilled for well over three years. This isn’t despite my best efforts. PCA jobs just aren’t as attractive these days, because people need to be able to provide for themselves and their families, and with the current wages and lack of benefits that is very difficult, if not impossible, to do. That doesn’t mean it’s not a great job. It is.

It is a very unique and rewarding opportunity to assist someone in living an independent life, and it can be an especially great experience for those pursuing degrees in nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, kinesiology, social work, special education, physician assistant and medical school. But, I have also had business, law and psychology students excel in positions with me. It is also a job that anyone can learn to do. You don’t have to be a student.

Despite the state of the home care industry, I have some tips and advice that can be helpful to anyone recruiting PCAs. Below are my core foundations and routines for recruiting PCAs.

Before recruiting, there are some things you want to think about:

  • Keep your ads personable! Try to demonstrate your personality in sharing information about your opening(s) without giving out identifying information. This will give the applicants a feel for you as a person and not sound sterile and clinical. I often get told by applicants that they were drawn to my opening(s) because of how my ad was written; they could get a feel for me and that it wasn’t just a standard job ad.
  • What qualities are most important to you in a PCA? For me, being mature, responsible, reliable / dependable and committed are extremely important. I need people who are going to understand the importance of the job and of them showing up to work as scheduled. Because it is a very upclose and personal role, and they spend a lot of time with me and in my personal life, I look for people who are friendly, fun and at least somewhat outgoing, and who have similar interests as me.
  • What might not be negotiable to you? What qualities, or lack of, would make you not want someone to work as your PCA? This is a very individual thing to think about and will definitely vary from client to client. For me, taking / needing frequent time off can be very problematic for me and meeting my scheduling needs, so if someone travels a lot I would probably not pursue them. While I prefer people who are fun and outgoing, if someone doesn’t demonstrate that they know when to be serious and know there are boundaries for behavior, I would be less inclined to hire them. Being open-minded is an important one for me. Just as everyone does, I have my own routines and preferences, and it’s important that someone respect them and be open to following them. Smoking during work is an absolute non-negotiable for me. Due to my health, I am very sensitive to smoke and I cannot be exposed to smoke dander.
  • What skills would you like them to already have? For this you should think about the cares you need them to assist you with. Do you want someone who already knows how to use a Hoyer lift or experience with manual transfers? Would you be more comfortable with someone who has experience with assisting with showers, using the bathroom, using catheters or bowel programs? Again, these are personal preferences and may depend on your comfort level with having someone new assist you with these cares, your ability to direct and talk people through routines like these and the kind of training you provide people when they are hired.
  • What requirements do applicants need to have? Think about everything your PCA will be doing with and for you, and also what your agency or state may require. For me, applicants need to have the strength to lift me to-and-from my chair. They will be driving me places in my vehicle, so they need to be an insured driver and have a valid driver’s license. Because reliability is important, the fact that I am not on an efficient bus line and that sometimes shift times might need to change (and at the last minute), I also require that they have their own vehicle. I have two companion dogs, so applicants need to be comfortable with them. My state requires PCAs to obtain a free online certificate (this can be done after you decide to hire them) and a clean return on a comprehensive criminal background check performed by the MN DHS.
  • Design the shift times and schedule to meet your needs. It is your life and you have the right to determine how your days go and are scheduled. You have the right to get up and go to bed when you want to, to eat when you want to, to take a shower when you want to, to go to the bathroom when you want to, and do anything else you want to do. And not just a matter of wanting but needing to in order to work around your job and other obligations or activities you have going on. Always keep in mind that the approach to your care should always be person-centered. Too often we are expected to just accept assistance on days and times someone can come rather than when we want it or need it, especially during these times of the workforce shortage. Always remember, it is your life and have your shift times be when works best for you. Obviously, being flexible on occasion when needed will go a long way with a caregiver, but don’t consistently sacrifice your needs and personal schedule.

Now that you have thought about everything that is important to you in a PCA and receiving care, it’s time to advertise for your opening(s). Here are places I commonly advertise:

  • Craigslist – In the Health/Medical category, in the Domestic section of Gigs and in the General section of Community.
  • Care.com – I post a job opening listed as Special Needs and I search through the profiles of caregivers, sending messages to those I would be potentially interested in interviewing.
  • Sitter City – This is very similar to Care.com, and I use the same methods, but I have not found this site to be as user-friendly or as fruitful.
  • Facebook – I share my ad on my own Newsfeed in case anyone I know is interested or if anyone knows of anyone who may be interested. I join various groups for college students and post my ad in those groups. I also post my ad in any local sale or city groups. I have tried posting in the jobs area of Marketplace, but you need to first have a business Facebook Page (not profile) and didn’t find it productive.
  • Handshake – This is a job website that many colleges and universities are now using for employers to post job openings for students and alumni. For clients like me who privately recruit it has been challenging, as many colleges consider us to be private employers and therefore will not accept our ads. But it depends on the school and is worth a try.
  • Colleges & Universities – There are multiple efforts I use with these. I contact relevant student groups / organizations, academic departments and faculty members by email asking them to share my flyer with their students. I have found some great students this way. I also email Student Life and the Career Development / Services office and ask if they would post my flyer on their bulletin boards. Most campuses have bulletin boards all over, so I will go to the campuses myself or ask a friend who goes there or lives in the area to post flyers around campus.
  • Indeed – This is a very popular job website. However, it can be difficult to get your account approved. If they feel you are a private employer, they very likely will disable your account. I was finally approved by jumping through hoops to verify my affiliation with my hiring agency.
  • Bulletin Boards – There are bulletin boards all over towns! Coffee shops, community centers, churches, grocery stores, malls, small eateries, employee break rooms, etc. Scope out places in your area to see if they have a bulletin board and put up flyers.
  • Word of Mouth – I ask friends and both past and present PCAs to share my flyer or ad links with anyone and everyone they know. I encourage them to share on their social media, by email, asking their instructors if they can have a minute at the start of class to present the opportunity, with groups they are affiliated with and more.

After my ads are posted and my flyers have been shared, hopefully I start getting applicants. I only accept applicants by email. It is easier for me this way and I can easily provide them with more information about the position by email so nothing is left out or not clear.

If an applicant seems to be someone who I think can do the job and would be a good fit for me, I have a pre-written email I respond with. I tell them a little more about myself (such as my education, my work, activities and interests, my companion dogs, etc). I summarize the importance of my PCAs and give an overview of the things my PCAs do for me on any given day. If I had very typical days or routines during the available shifts, I would outline this. I list the hours and schedule, and summarize any important information about scheduling options etc. I summarize the pay and training involved. Then I conclude the email with a few questions for them to answer. I re-ask what their availability is, ask if they are OK with working some hours on major holidays, I ask for any known time off needs for the next six months, ask about whether or not they are a smoker, verify that they have a valid driver’s license with insurance and their own vehicle, ask how much weight they can lift and then just ask them to tell me more about themselves.

If they answer those questions in a decent manner and I feel like they would be a good fit, I will schedule an interview for as soon as possible. Applicants can disappear fast!

I want to emphasize that the above are my preferences and methods that work for me. They may not work for you. You may not agree with them. And that’s OK. Hopefully what I have shared at least helps you in developing preferences and methods that work for you, so you can be on your way to hiring a great team of PCAs.

Good luck!

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