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Health Care Aide Prior Learning and Recognition (PLAR) Frequently Asked Questions

Program Overview

Q: Can I challenge the Health Care Aide certificate program? In order to challenge the Health Care Aide (HCA) program, you must complete the Health Care Aide Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) program. This involves challenging all the courses / exams in the HCA program, except for the mandatory "Working as a Health Care Aide" course which must be completed in an online delivery format. Note: This is a good option for a student who has completed a nursing program in another country, and they want to get a certificate so they can start working while they take steps towards completing their PN/RN license in Canada.

Q: How long does the process take? The Health Care Aide (PLAR) program takes a minimum of 4 to 6 months to complete. There is a large amount of independent study involved. Once accepted into the program, all components of the program must be completed within 18 months.

Q: How much time commitment does it take to prepare for the exams? This is highly individual and depends on educational and work background, and study habits.

Q: What resources are available to help me prepare for the exams? If you are accepted into the program, you will meet with a coordinator and complete a self-assessment to determine your learning outcomes and use the results as a study guide. You will then study independently using the textbook, learner guides, and online materials, and you will attend scheduled labs to practice skills.

Q: What are the exams like? There are 8 courses to challenge and one mandatory course to take. The exams are either lab exams (hands-on skills) or online multiple choice theory exams. You must achieve at least 70% to pass.

Q: What happens if I fail a course or an exam? If you fail a challenge exam, you will then have to take that course, either online or in class.

Q: Can I transfer into a Practical Nurse program after completing this program? Graduates of a provincially-recognized Health Care Aide program may qualify for advanced credit in the Practical Nurse diploma program. To be considered for transfer credit, students must have completed the Health Care Aide Certificate program and must have completed 1,900 hours of work experience as a recognized Health Care Aide. Graduates of the Health Care Aide Certificate program may be eligible to receive credit for 3 nursing courses. For more information, visit the Transfer Credit page.

Q: How much will textbooks cost? Book lists and costs can be found on the Bookstore webpages.


Q: Will my certificate be recognized by employers? The Bow Valley College Health Care Aide program follows the Alberta government curriculum set by Alberta Health Services. Graduates of this program receive a certificate from Bow Valley College and Alberta Health Services. Bow Valley College has an excellent reputation with the provincial government and our graduates are preferred when applying for HCA jobs in the Calgary area because they are work-ready, and have met our high standards.

Q: What is the job market like? Health Care Aides are currently in high demand, especially in home care. For the employment outlook for this profession, visit the Alberta government's Alberta Occupational Profile (OCCinfo) page.

Applications and Admissions

Q: I tried applying online, but I couldn't figure out how. How do I apply? You must apply in person at a Bow Valley College campus.

For information on general application and admissions processes, visit the General FAQ page or contact the Student Advising Centre (formerly the Prospective Student Centre) at 403-410-1402.