5 Tips for Becoming a Better Nursing Assistant | Salter School of Allied Health and Nursing
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5 Tips for Becoming a Better Nursing Assistant

nursing assistant tipsPrioritizing your work can make your day run more efficiently

If you are currently in Nursing Assistant training—or similar programs such as Patient Care Technician or Practical Nursing—you may be starting to think about your first job in your new field. You might be wondering: What will it be like? Will I be able to perform the clinical skills I learned at school? What if I forget everything I learned? What if I make a mistake?

It is normal to ask yourself these questions and to be a little bit nervous about starting a new job. In an important job like nursing assisting, where you are dealing with patients’ health concerns, it is always best to ask your supervisor whenever you have a question. He or she will understand that you are new to the job, and will want you to ask questions rather than making a mistake.

Below are some tips to help you out on the job. And don’t worry…with a little bit of time, you will get the hang of it!

1. Jot it down

When you first begin a new job, it will feel like there is so much to remember! You will be learning a lot every day, and will need to keep track of tasks, reminders, and questions. It is a good idea to carry a small notebook and pen, so that you can jot down reminders to yourself, as well as questions that you need to ask your supervisor. Writing things down is a great way to stay on top of your tasks.

2. Watch, learn, and question

As you will probably learn during your externship, watching is a great way to learn. In your first few weeks on the job, watch your supervisor very carefully. See how he or she handles the patient-related tasks. Ask questions about how and why something is being done. Try these tips:

  • Watch how your supervisor cares for patients. Ask them for advice on the best techniques to use.
  • Find out the patients who will be assigned to you, and read their charts and care plans as soon as you can. You want to know what kinds of services you will be performing for them. If there are procedures that you don’t understand, ask your supervisor.
  • Whenever you are starting a new shift, find out from your supervisor or the previous nursing assistant exactly what is expected of you. What do the patients need? What are the most pressing needs? When were their rooms last visited? Take notes so you remember.
  • Document on the patient’s chart everything that you do with the patient.

3. Organize your day efficiently

A day in the life of a nursing assistant can be pretty busy. You might have many demands on your time, and feel that you need to find a way to complete your tasks more efficiently. Try these efficiency tips.

  • Give yourself 10 minutes at the beginning of your shift to plan out your day. Look at the day’s task, and put them in priority order. Also consider how much walking around you are going to do in between patients. See if you can group your tasks to minimize this extra walking. This planning process can make your day more efficient. You may even have some extra time to spare.
  • Organize what you will need before you enter a patient room. Make sure you have a vitals kit, gloves, linens, or whatever other supplies you will need before you see the patient. This way you won’t have to be running back to the supply closet multiple times.
  • Ask your supervisor if you are allowed to bring in your own blood pressure and thermometer kit. This will eliminate the frustration of searching the hallways for a shared kit.
  • Get a fanny pack to hold frequently-used supplies like a pen and your notebook and other notes or reminders you might pick up during the day.

4. Treat patients with respect

Patients who are in need of nursing care are often very dependent. You may have to help them eat, groom, and bathe. This level of dependency can be hard on a patient’s sense of dignity. Be sure to respect your patient at all times. As you care for them, tell them what you are doing before you start. Ask them if there is anything you can do to make them comfortable. Offer conversation; many nursing home patients are especially lonely for company. Remember, your patients are the reason you are a nursing assistant. Always be kind and professional, even on rough days.

5. Treat other staff members with respect

Working in an environment where co-workers respect each other is good for everyone. Make sure you treat your other co-workers with respect by starting your shift on time, keeping to your break limits, and lending a hand to others when they are short-staffed. Try to be friendly and supportive, and odds are, you will receive the same respect in return.

6. Don’t forget to treat yourself with respect

Being a nursing assistant is a tiring and demanding job. You spend most of the day on your feet, where you help to move patients, bathe patients, make beds, and provide the care that your patients need. But don’t forget to care for yourself too! Be sure you get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, remember to drink fluids, and get regular checkups. Keeping yourself healthy is the first step toward helping your patients get better.

For all those future Nursing Assistants out there, we hope these tips will help you in your career to become an efficient, caring, and professional nursing assistant. Your career will make an impact on the lives of others!


This article was provided by the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health. Located in Manchester, New Hampshire, our school provides three training programs for Nursing Assistants, Patient Care Technicians, and Practical Nurses. Fill out our simple online form, and one of our representatives will be happy to contact you.