What is a patient sitter? Is it a good pre-PA or pre- med clinical experience for a prehealth student?

A patient sitter, also known as a patient observer, is a paid entry level healthcare job. Patient sitters are responsible for providing continuous supervision and support to patients who require close monitoring due to their medical condition or safety concerns. The primary role of a patient sitter is to ensure the well-being and safety of the patient by preventing accidents, falls, or self-harm. 

Their duties may include:

  • Constant Observation: The sitter must remain alert and attentive to the patient’s activities at all times, maintaining a visual presence in the patient’s room or within close proximity.
  • Safety Measures: They ensure that the patient is not at risk of injuring themselves, such as by removing objects that could be harmful or providing assistance with mobility.
  • Communication: Patient sitters often communicate with the healthcare team, reporting any changes in the patient’s condition, concerns, or unusual behavior.
  • Emotional Support: They may provide comfort and reassurance to patients who may be anxious, confused, or disoriented.
  • Documentation: Sitters may be responsible for documenting observations, incidents, and any relevant information during their shift.

Patient sitters can be assigned to various patient populations, including:

  • Elderly Patients: Sitters may be assigned to older adults who are at risk of falls, have dementia, or require assistance due to their frailty.
  • Mental Health Patients: In psychiatric units or facilities, patient sitters may support individuals who are a danger to themselves or others, ensuring their safety and preventing self-harm.
  • Postoperative Patients: Patients recovering from surgery and those in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) may require close monitoring to prevent complications.
  • Confused or Agitated Patients: Sitters may be assigned to patients who are agitated, confused, or experiencing delirium, ensuring their safety and providing a calming presence.

Patient sitters can work in various healthcare settings, including:

  • Hospitals: Patient sitters are commonly employed in hospitals, where they are assigned to different departments, such as medical-surgical units, emergency departments, or psychiatric wards.
  • Nursing Homes: Sitters may be employed in long-term care facilities or nursing homes to provide continuous supervision to elderly or disabled residents.
  • Home Healthcare: Some patient sitters work in home healthcare settings, providing support and monitoring for patients who are receiving care at home.

The salary of a patient sitter can vary depending on factors such as geographical location, level of experience, and the employing institution. On average, in the United States, patient sitters earn an annual salary ranging from $20,000 to $30,000. However, it’s important to note that these figures are approximate and can differ significantly based on various factors. The training and certification requirements for patient sitters may vary depending on the employer and local regulations. Generally, the only requirement is a high school diploma or equivalent. Patient sitters receive on the job training and will typically learn about HIPPA and privacy laws and be asked to get certified in CPR. 

Patient sitter is a patient contact position. Keep in mind though that depending on the setting and patient population, the ability to interact and communicate with the patient will vary, some patients may be acutely agitated or nonverbal. For a student who wants to interact with the elderly, mental health, or postoperative population this could be a great entry level position that has a very low bar for entry. 

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