The only thing more difficult than finding potential PCAs (Personal Care Assistants) is the interviewing. If you’re new to hiring PCAs, the whole process can be overwhelming. This person could potentially be your second set of hands for the foreseeable future. How are you supposed to know after one interview if this person and you will get along well enough? Sure, sometimes you just know, but not always. And in addition to the interview, there are other factors to consider, like scheduling and reference checks. Interviewing, hiring, and training PCAs is nothing new. There are lots of ways to get the most out of the hiring process. In this article, we will attempt to make hiring a new PCA as easy as possible.
Finding Your PCA
The first step is finding people. I’ve already gone over some unique places to look for PCAs, so I’m not going to go into depth here. However, I will say this is the longest part of the process. It takes time to get the word out, so don’t get discouraged if interest isn’t immediate. It can get aggravating when you’re not getting the response you wanted, but hang in there.
Scheduling the Interview
Congratulations! You’ve got someone interested in being your PCA! All that hard work of covering the internet and your town in help wanted ads paid off. Now it’s time to schedule the interview. There are two big things I like to keep in mind when setting up an interview: time and location. You don’t want to wait three weeks to schedule an interview, because the person could lose interest in that time. The quicker the turnaround, the quicker you get the help you need.
Second, location. I typically don’t like to interview people at my home if I can help it, just out of safety. I try and meet them half-way between me and them, at a Starbucks or similarly populated location.
After you’ve both agreed on a time and place, I always text/email/contact them the night before to confirm they are still coming. This doesn’t always guarantee they will, but it helps. Now the interview can begin.
The interview is important for lots of reasons, but ultimately it lets you get a read on the person. Yes, you want to find out about their work experience, but that’s the tip of the iceberg. A few things I like to keep in mind are:
- Do our personalities clash?
- Can I see myself getting along with this person?
- Are they quiet? Talkative?
- Do they have experience being a PCA? How much?
- Are they afraid of/allergic to my service dog? What about any other pets I may have?
If there are any special requirements, like being able to lift a certain amount unassisted, I always reiterate those. Even if they were clearly written out elsewhere, the interviewee might have missed it or applied anyway. If cooking is part of the job, I ask them what kinds of things they like to cook for themselves.
Perhaps my favorite question, though, is actually more of a statement: Tell me about yourself. This is one I ask at the very beginning, because the person will sometimes answer some of the other questions. And, perhaps more important, it can lead to other questions I hadn’t thought of. It’s all around just a good way to get a feel for their personality, and determine if you’ll get along.
You’ve found the one! The interview went great, and the two of you hit it off. Maybe you hired them on the spot? Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. If your funding is through insurance, they may require certain things. Each insurance is different, and varies from one location to the other, so check what those are before offering the job. Be upfront with your new PCA. Let them know of these requirements as early as possible so they can do anything they need to, such as CPR certifications or background checks.
You’ve searched, interviewed, and hired a new PCA. Now comes the part I tend to dread the most: training. Training someone new can seem simple, but it’s not. Things you take for granted, like your current team lifting you correctly, are things your new hire doesn’t know yet. They also don’t know your schedule, so you need to tell your PCA when and how you want certain things done. Is Tuesday “laundry day”? New PCA doesn’t know that, so you’ve got to let them know. And you need to tell them if you have certain ways you separate your loads, even if it seems obvious to you.
This becomes easier the more times you have to train someone. One great way to make sure everything gets done is to make a handbook that outlines every minute detail of all the tasks for each day. This may seem like overkill, but trust me it’s necessary. You’d be surprised. This isn’t to say that your PCA is incompetent. You wouldn’t hire them if they were, right? They just don’t know your idiosyncrecies. It’s better to go overkill than not get things done the way you want. Remember, they get paid to help you.
The scariest thing for me is always being lifted by a new person. I’m very floppy, so I need to be supported a certain way so I don’t get hurt. I’ve normally done one of two things to help a new PCA learn how to lift me:
- First, I’ve had a current PCA or family member be there the first shift to show the new PCA how to do things. This is great because the old person can see what the new PCA may be doing wrong and give advice.
- Take pictures/video of how to do certain things. This works great if you can’t get someone with experience to help train, or if the new PCA needs help for the first few shifts. Also, they can ask you questions and you’ll have a visual representation too.
Training is exhausting, but it’s necessary. The more you do it (and trust me, you’ll have to do it a lot), the easier it gets.
Hiring a new PCA is difficult and it takes time. Luckily, you’re not alone. There are plenty of people who have gone through this already, so it’s not impossible. The more you go through the process, the better you get at it. You’ll learn what kinds of questions to ask in interviews, and which aren’t necessary. You’ll learn how the hiring process works with your source of funding. And finally, you’ll get used to having to explain how to do things when training your new hire. Hopefully, this guide made the process seem a little more manageable.