Nursing assistants provide basic patient care and assist patients with activities of daily living. If you’re interested in this healthcare role, which is sometimes referred to as a nursing aide, it’s helpful to learn more about what these professionals do, where they work, and what you can do to prepare for pursuing a nursing assistant position. We cover all these topics here.
What Does a Nursing Assistant Do?
Nursing assistants can have a variety of job responsibilities. Some of the tasks that individuals in this position may be assigned, depending on the employer, include:
- Obtaining and recording patients’ vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, etc.)
- Helping patients shower, bathe, and dress
- Assisting patients with using the toilet and eating
- Turning or repositioning patients when confined to a bed
- Aiding in patient mobility, such as by helping them move from a bed to a wheelchair or vice versa
- Providing comfort and companionship for patients
- Communicating with other members of the patient’s healthcare team, updating them about the patient’s health and/or relaying any potential concerns
When compared to other types of healthcare roles, a nursing assistant’s job duties can sometimes be seen as more physically demanding or strenuous. Between helping the patient care for daily needs and aiding in patient movement, it’s not uncommon for nursing assistants to spend a lot of their workday on their feet.
At the same time, assisting with these duties also provides the opportunity for nursing assistants to develop closer relationships with their patients than healthcare professionals in other types of positions. This can be seen as a benefit if you’re the type of person who’d rather work with patients that you can care for on a regular basis versus only seeing a particular patient once or twice a year (or less).
Where Do Nursing Assistants Work?
Nursing assistants can be found in nursing care facilities and assisted living centers. Hospitals, home healthcare agencies, continuing care retirement communities, and hospices also employ nursing assistant roles.
Because many of these healthcare facilities have patients who require full-time care, a nursing assistant’s work schedule may include nights, weekends, and holidays. While part-time nursing assistant positions do exist, most individuals in this healthcare role work full-time.1
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 5% increase in nursing assistant positions between 2021 and 2031, which would create approximately 62,700 new jobs.2 Due to funding shifts and patient preferences, the BLS adds that many of these positions will likely be in home and community healthcare settings.
How to Become a Nursing Assistant
To become a nursing assistant, you must generally complete an educational program that is approved by the state in which you work.3 This type of program may involve both classroom instruction and supervised hands-on training in a healthcare environment.
Once this education and training are complete, it’s also common for nursing assistants to receive a short period of on-the-job training. This helps them to learn their new employer’s processes and procedures.
States can vary in terms of how much training they require before an individual can work as a nursing assistant or nursing aide. For example, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, and Wisconsin require a minimum of 120 training hours for nursing assistants, while the minimum training hours for nursing assistants in Michigan, South Dakota, Texas, and several other states is 75 hours.4
Most states also require an individual to pass a state-approved competency exam to work in specific roles, such as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). Eligibility requirements may also need to be met in order to sit for the exam. Some states may also require registration with the state to be employed in certain settings, for example a nursing home.3
In some states, you may have additional requirements that must be met before you can work as a nursing assistant. You might be required to pass a criminal background check, for instance. Continuing education courses may also be required to retain your status as a nursing assistant or CNA.
Beyond education, training, certification, and any additional requirements, it can also be helpful to develop certain skills or qualities if you’d like to work as a nursing assistant. Skills and qualities that are beneficial when providing patient care in this healthcare role include:3
- Being a good communicator, both when speaking and listening
- Having compassion and empathy when caring for others
- Being patient and responding with professionalism in stressful situations
Start Working Toward a Career as a Nursing Assistant
Does a nursing assistant position sound like it might be a good fit for you? If so, Ultimate Medical Academy (UMA) offers a Nursing Assistant program out of its Clearwater Campus.
UMA is the Tampa Bay licensed training provider for the American Red Cross Nursing Assistant program. Our program includes a mixture of classroom instruction and labs, along with a 45-hour unpaid externship. This externship takes place in an actual healthcare facility, providing you with real-world experience as you work to build the skills used in a nursing assistant role.
When you enroll in UMA’s Nursing Assistant program, you can earn your diploma in two months.5 This enables you to pursue working in the healthcare field faster than a longer diploma or degree program that takes several months to complete. Upon graduating from this program, you are also prepared to sit for the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) exam upon meeting eligibility requirements.
Why choose UMA’s Nursing Assistant program? If you do a little bit of research about us, you will quickly see that we have a student-centered focus. We have numerous student services teams that are available to help you in several different areas, ranging from academics to help with your healthcare job search.
Plus, our student services teams aren’t just here to help you when you are in the midst of your healthcare training program. We also stand ready to assist you well beyond graduation. If you need to update your resume, or prepare for a job interview, we can help with this too.
Whether you have more questions or are ready to get started, contact us today. We look forward to hearing about your career goals and working together to help you find ways to achieve them!
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Nursing Assistants and Orderlies. Work Environment. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nursing-assistants.htm#tab-3
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Nursing Assistants and Orderlies. Job Outlook. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nursing-assistants.htm#tab-6
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Nursing Assistants and Orderlies. How to Become a Nursing Assistant or Orderly. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nursing-assistants.htm#tab-4
4 PHI. Nursing Assistant Training Requirements by State. http://www.phinational.org/advocacy/nurse-aide-training-requirements-state-2016/
5 Completion time varies depending on individual student.