Nursing Assistants—or Nurses’ Aides—work on the frontlines in patient care
There are many career paths to choose from in the field of nursing. Nursing Assistants are not full nurses, but they still play an important role in the field of nursing. Nursing assistants work very closely with patients every day, and help them handle their basic needs. Nursing homes, long-term care facilities, rehab facilities, and hospice organizations are some of the healthcare facilities where nursing assistants often work.
If you are considering a career in this field, take a moment to read these important facts about the job.
1. What a Nursing Assistant does on the job
Nursing assistants provide “basic care” to patients. What exactly does this mean? Basic needs are the simple things in life that become difficult when you are aging, sick, or disabled. This could mean helping someone bathe or helping them sit up in their hospital bed. Some of your tasks might include the following:
Providing basic care in these areas:
- Personal hygiene, such as bathing, brushing teeth, and using the bathroom
- Putting clothing on or removing clothing as needed
- Caring for your patients’ hair and fingernails
- Assisting the patient with taking a walk, or taking the patient somewhere in a wheelchair
- Helping the patient move around in his or her room
- Assisting the patient during meal times
Nursing assistants may also have higher-level clinical responsibilities, such as measuring patients’ vital signs, including their temperature or blood pressure.
One of the unique benefits of being a nursing assistant is the close bond that you are able to develop with your patients. While many others in the nursing profession move from patient to patient rather quickly, a nursing assistant spends a good deal of time with each patient, and may get to know them over many weeks, months, or years.
2. Typical characteristics of the work environment
Nursing assistant positions are typically available in nursing homes, long-term care homes, hospice organizations, and other residential facilities. The workplace is a professional environment, and nursing assistants are expected to follow certain protocols for safety. They usually report to a Registered Nurse. Most nursing assistants wear scrubs to work.
The day-to-day work of a nursing assistant is physically demanding, because you need to spend a long time on your feet. Some of your responsibilities will be strenuous, such as helping patients move from their beds to a wheelchair, moving a patient to change their bed sheets, or pushing a wheelchair.
Most jobs as nursing assistants are full-time jobs. Because residential facilities operate 24 hours per day, it is likely that you will sometimes have to work a variety of shifts, including night hours, weekends, evenings, and holidays.
3. Training requirements for Nursing Assistants
Training programs for nursing assistants vary depending on the state where you work. Most states require you to attend a training program and to pass a state test before being allowed to practice.
What will you learn in training? Most programs will teach the basic principles of nursing, including caring for patients’ basic needs, taking vital signs, how to care for cognitively impaired patients, and restorative care.
To find an accredited nursing program, search the nursing assistant training programs in your area. They are usually offered at private career schools, vocational schools, community colleges, and two-year colleges.
Some states may have more requirements than others. Check with your state’s Board of Nursing to find out more about your state’s requirements.
4. Wage and salary expectations: How much will you make?
Wages and salaries vary from state to state—even from city to city. The amount of money you make will also depend on your years of experience and the type of job you find. The best place to get an idea of the wage range is the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. The handbook provides the median annual wage of nursing assistants across the country. It is also a good idea to search job postings in your area. Job postings sometimes include the hourly rate, and this will give you some idea of what to expect.
5. The future job outlook for Nursing Assistants
No one has a crystal ball to predict the future, but the U.S. Department of Labor predicts future job growth for hundreds of careers in its Occupational Outlook Handbook. Here is what the handbook says about the job outlook for Nursing Assistants: “Employment of nursing assistants is projected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.”
The main reason for this possible growth, according to the Handbook, is the fact that the baby boom population is getting older and requiring more long-term care. In general, people are living longer, which contributes to a higher rate of conditions that require long-term care, such as dementia or Parkinson’s disease.
We hope this article helps you to gain a better understanding of the role of Nursing Assistants in the healthcare system.
This article was provided by the Harris Casel Institute in Melbourne, Florida. The Institute provides career-focused training in the fields of allied health and nursing. Students can choose among career paths as nursing assistants, home health aides, patient care technicians, medical billing and coding specialists, phlebotomists, and practicing nurses. Contact the Harris Casel Institute to learn more about our programs.