Personal care worker (operational services-support officer/aged care worker/disability services officer/residential care worker)
Personal care workers assist in caring for patients in hospitals, nursing (aged care) homes, residential care facilities for the aged or disabled and in people's homes. The job title can vary across aged care, disability services, hospital or acute care, community and residential care. Personal care workers usually carry out rostered shift work which includes night and weekend work.
Personal care workers may perform the following tasks:
- assist with rehabilitation exercises and basic treatment and medications
- assist nursing staff to lift (machine assisted) and turn bedridden patients
- help to shower, bathe and shave patients under supervision of a registered nurse
- assist clients with dressing and eating
- help clients to move around and communicate
- apply practical intervention procedures for dementia or behavioural problems
- make sure that an adequate supply of clean clothing and linen is available for the client and that soiled items are removed and cleaned
- assist with admissions and discharge of patients.
Personal care workers can work in a variety of roles and service areas including:
- personal care
- catering, kitchen and cleaning
- linen management
- patient transport
- hospital stores and supplies
- mortuary services
- general and clinical support services
- grounds and maintenance
- in-home personal care and support services.
The Queensland Health Department has different levels/classifications for personal care worker positions based on experience and qualifications. Positions include:
- Entry level positions (Operational Services Support Officer 001-002) which usually do not require the person to hold a qualification
- Generalist Health Worker positions (003 level) require the person to hold a Certificate III in health care (or equivalent) and have 12 months experience as a health worker
- Advanced Health Worker positions (004 level/005 level) require the person to hold a Certificate IV in health care (or equivalent) for 004 level positions and require the person to hold a Diploma for 005 level positions.
Further information about jobs in Queensland Health is available on the Queensland Health website
Privately run businesses and community organisations can provide in-home personal care and support services for the elderly, people with a disablility and others when they are unable to manage on their own. Professional residential and community care staff provide in home services to enhance a person's quality of life and enable them to maintain their independence and remain within their home. In home personal care worker roles may require the person to hold a Certificate III or Certificate IV in Home and Community Care.
Aged care workers assist elderly people who are unable to care for themselves. Aged care workers provide personal care assistance including bathing, lifting (machine assisted), grooming, exercising and feeding people.
Aged care workers can work without formal qualifications. However your job opportunities may improve if you hold one of the following qualifications:
- Certificate III in Aged Care
- Certificate IV in Aged Care.
You can gain a qualification in aged care through a traineeship. For more information about training options including financial assistance, go to the 'Qualifications and Training' section below.
With experience and further training, personal care workers can become enrolled nurses or registered nurses.
Disability services officers (special care workers) provide care, supervision and support for disabled people in residential care establishments and in their own homes. Disability services officers:
- assist disabled people with health issues and daily living tasks such as washing, dressing, eating, transport and budgeting
- supervise and arrange activities to enhance the physical, social, emotional and intellectual development of those in residential care or in their own home.
A person can work as a disability services officer without formal qualifications. However, your employment prospects may be improved if you have previous experience with people who require special help or hold one of the following qualifications:
- Certificate III in Disability
- Certificate IV in Disability.
You can gain a qualification by completing a course (see 'Qualifications and Training' section below) or you can become a personal care worker through a traineeship in Aged Care, Disability or Home and Community Care.
Residential care workers provide care and supervision for children or disabled persons in group housing or institutional care. Residential care workers usually hold one of the following Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) qualifications:
- Associate Degree
- Advanced Diploma
At least three years of relevant experience may substitute for the formal qualifications. In some instances relevant experience and/or on-the-job training may be required in addition to the formal qualification.
Before you can migrate to Australia as a skilled migrant you must have your skills assessed by the relevant national assessment authority. The assessment authority for residential care workers is Vocational Education and Training Assessment Services (VETASSESS). Further information about having your skills assessed for migration purposes is available on the VETASSESS website
The myfuture website provides further information about personal care workers including educational requirements, salary ranges, related courses and professions.
Qualifications and Training
Personal care workers can work without having formal qualifications. You normally will receive informal training on the job. Your job prospects may be improved if you have experience working in the health area or hold qualifications in the health or community services area. Some advertised positions may require you to have a Certificate III level qualification in health or community services.
If you have worked in the health or community services area and do not hold a qualification, you should consider having your skills and experience assessed through the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) process. This recognition process may result in you gaining an Australian qualification. For more information about the RPL process please contact Training Queensland on 1300 654 687. They can also provide you with information about career pathways, training options and if government financial support is available for study or training.
Information about health or community services courses is available on the TAFE Queensland website or you can telephone 1300 369 935.
You can also become a personal care worker through a traineeship in health and community services including traineeships in aged care worker, disability support worker and community services worker. Traineeships combine paid employment and training, giving you an immediate start in a new career. Further information about traineeships is available on the Apprenticeships Info website or telephone 1800 210 210.
In Queensland personal care workers are not required to be registered or licensed.
Criminal history checks are required for people who are applying for jobs with Queensland Health and other health care providers. Job applicants will be asked to provide adequate proof of identity and written consent for the health care provider to conduct a criminal history check through the Queensland Police Service.
A criminal history check is also undertaken for roles that provide aged care services. Queensland Health and all other aged care providers have an obligation to ensure that employees and other persons engaged in aged care services meet the National Police Certificate requirements of the Aged Care Act 1997 and that prospective employees are not disqualified from aged care services roles because of certain criminal convictions.
Yellow cards are required to be held by all people engaged by funded non government disability service providers. To obtain a yellow card a person must undergo criminal history screening prior to employment and every three years.
Under the Disability Services Act 2006, the disability service provider must apply for a criminal history check on behalf of each prospective or engaged employee. The service provider will submit applications directly to the Department of Communities (further information is available on the Department of Communities website). The department will then forward the application to the Queensland Police Service for a national check of the person's criminal history. People working in disability service roles will be issued with a positive notice yellow card that verifies they have had a criminal history screening within the past three years.
People seeking to work with both children and adults at a place where disability services are funded by the Department of Communities are required to apply for a yellow card and a blue card.
Blue cards are required to be held by personal care workers whose role involves providing care to children.
Blue cards are issued by the Queensland Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian. Upon application for a blue card, the Commission will carry out a Working with Children Check (blue card check) to see if a person is eligible. This includes a criminal history check.
A person whose application is approved is issued with a positive notice letter and a blue card. If a person's application is refused, they are issued with a negative notice which prohibits them from carrying on a business or providing child related activities in the categories regulated by the Commission's Act.
Further information about blue cards including applying for a blue card is available on the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian website.
Some personal care roles may require suitable applicants to have previous experience in a health care environment and to hold a current First Aid Certificate and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) Certificate or have the ability to obtain these certificates prior to employment.
Steps to skills recognition
Educational assessment for general purposes
Overseas qualified personal care/health care workers may apply to have a general academic assessment of their overseas qualifications by the Skills Recognition Unit, Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment. Overseas qualifications assessments are free for people who live in Queensland and have permission to work or study in Australia.
The benefits of having your overseas qualifications assessed by the Skills Recognition Unit include receiving:
- a formal assessment of how your qualifications compare with Australian educational awards. This information can then be provided to potential employers, educational institutions and industry related associations or professional bodies
- information relative to your job area.
A step-by-step guide on an educational assessment of your overseas qualifications can be found on the overseas qualification recognition page
As some personal care worker roles require you to hold a blue card (refer to the Registration and licensing section for details), you may wish to obtain a blue card prior to applying for roles.