5 Things You Need to Know Before Becoming a Nursing Assistant

A career as a nurses’ aide or nursing assistant can be rewarding

If you are interested in starting a new career in the field of nursing or healthcare, you may be looking at nursing assistant schools. Being a nursing assistant—also called a nurses’ aide—can be a rewarding field, especially if you are the type of person who enjoys the rewards that come from helping others.

Before making your decision, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about your new career. These five Q-and-A’s from the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health should help you understand what nursing assisting is all about.

1. What would I do as a nursing assistant?

The central role of a nursing assistant is to provide basic care to patients or residents of a nursing home. “Basic care” means that you are helping patients with the daily tasks that they can no longer handle on their own. Here are some of the tasks you might do on the job:

  • Measuring and recording vital signs
  • Assisting with patient hygiene and bathing
  • Helping patients get dressed and groomed
  • Taking the patient for a walk
  • Helping the patient move from bed to chair
  • Straightening up a patient’s personal effects
  • Changing linens
  • Assisting patients who need help eating

Nursing assistants usually report to a head nurse and are responsible for other tasks that the head nurse may assign. Your job will be to help the head nurse by taking care of the day-to-day basic needs of the patient, and allowing the nurse to handle the more pressing medical needs.

Nursing assistant jobs can be physically demanding. You will spend most of the day on your feet, and you will be doing physical activities such as moving patients, making beds, and attending to various patient needs. It’s a great choice for someone who likes to stay in shape and be active on the job.

2. Where would I work as a nurses’ aide?

Most nursing assistant jobs are in long-term care facilities. This might include nursing homes, rehab centers, residential skilled care facilities, and some hospitals. One of the great benefits of working with long-term residents is the opportunity to get to know them. In other healthcare positions, you might only see patients for short office visits or short hospital stays. But in long-term care, you work with the same patients for weeks, months, and years. This allows you to build relationships that can be meaningful for you and the residents.

Most jobs in this field are full-time positions, but there may be some part-time or per-diem opportunities. If you work in an around-the-clock facility, you may sometimes need to work night shifts, weekends, and holidays. As you stay in the job and gain more seniority, you may be able to improve your schedule.

3. How do I get Nursing Assistant training?

Becoming a nursing assistant requires training. Luckily, most training programs are relatively short and can be completed in less than six months. You do not need any prerequisites to enter a training program, other than a high school diploma or equivalent. Most programs focus on the basic principles of nursing, including measuring vital signs, first aid, and caring for elderly patients. Look for training programs at community colleges, career schools, and vocational schools in your area.

After you complete your training, most states require that you pass a licensing exam. Passing your state’s Board of Nursing licensing exam is normally required in order for you to be able to hold a job. Once you pass your exam, you can use the official title that your state’s Board of Nursing uses, such as Licensed Nursing Assistant or Certified Nursing Assistant.

4. What do Nursing Assistants make?

Nursing assisting is an entry level job in the field of nursing. Your salary will depend on factors such as your level of experience and the going rate in the region where you live. The Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, provides salary information for hundreds of careers. Read about the median annual wage of nursing assistants across the U.S. Also, try reading the local job ads for Nursing Assistants on a site like CareerBuilder or Indeed, and see if they give you a sense of what to expect in your area.

5. Will there be Nursing Assistant jobs in the future?

With the pace of technological changes, the job market changes rapidly. Fortunately, the outlook for nursing assistants is positive according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook. The handbook says, “Employment of nursing assistants is projected to grow 18 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.” The reason for the expected growth is the baby boom population. As this demographic is getting older, there is more need for nursing care.

We hope these Q-and-A’s have helped you to gain a better understanding of nursing assistants. If you think this career could be in your future, take the steps today to get your future started!

For adults living in the Manchester, NH area, the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health offers a nursing assistant program. With just 125 hours of coursework, you can learn the skills you need to pursue this field. Contact us for more information.

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