How Licensed Nursing Assistants Care for Patients

There are varied aspects to this important healthcare role

If you’re unfamiliar with the world of healthcare, you might not understand all the differences between practical nurses, nurse practitioners, nursing assistants, and other caregiving roles.

One thing to know is that nursing assistants and nurse practitioners both work in the same healthcare facilities (such as hospitals and nursing homes). However, there are significant differences between the two. Nurse practitioners have earned advanced degrees (such as a master’s) over about six years, which enables them to treat patients directly for certain conditions, similar to the way a doctor can.

By comparison, a licensed nursing assistant (LNA, also called a nurses’ aide) assists nurse practitioners by providing a tremendous amount of routine patient care. LNA positions also require significantly less training—the Licensed Nursing Assistant training program at the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health offers a program that you can complete in 6 months. That can be a huge advantage if you’re considering a career change and are eager to complete training for a new field.

What makes a good LNA? If you like interacting directly with patients, find that you have a lot of compassion for them, and have strong interpersonal skills, this could be a good choice for you.

It’s important to have a clear sense of what the job responsibilities of the LNA are on a daily basis. Here’s an overview.

How nursing assistants spend their day
LNAs don’t only work in hospitals; they also serve patients in nursing homes, rehab centers, and residential long-term care facilities. There is a range of roles that LNAs play to help keep healthcare facilities running smoothly. Most of these require supporting patients with basic care, and that can take many forms, including:

  • transferring patients to different parts of the facility in a wheelchair
  • communicating with patients about their care, pain, or other needs
  • helping patients to bathe and dress themselves
  • measuring patients’ vital signs
  • delivering meals to patients
  • helping patients eat a meal
  • changing and/or laundering bed linens
  • recording any symptoms the patient describes, as well as any changes in the patient’s health status
  • sterilizing equipment
  • stocking supplies that other nurses and medical professionals will need throughout the day (or shift).

Because nursing assistants have much more direct contact with patients, those who work in a long-term care facility or nursing home often enjoy building close, strong relationships with patients they care for every day. LNAs in these environments also get a chance to know families and provide the emotional support that is so important in long-term care situations. LNAs who work in facilities that are open 24 hours may have schedules that fluctuate, and they may have to work shifts at night or on weekends.

The “pros” of a career as an LNA
There is a lot to stimulate an LNA physically, emotionally, and mentally during the average day of work. It is active work, which also requires problem-solving in the moment, including reacting swiftly during medical emergencies. It helps to be a problem solver and to be able to think on your feet.

This is truly an essential job, because without LNAs, many patients would not receive the care they need to recover from an illness or simply to live comfortably. Knowing that you are helping others can offer career satisfaction.

Think a career as a nursing assistant may be the right path for you? Consider contacting Salter Nursing for more information about our program. It could lead to an exciting opportunity to contribute to your local healthcare community!

This post is part of the weekly blog of the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health. We also offer Practical Nurse and Patient Care Technician training programs at our campus in Manchester, NH. Reach out to us today for more information!

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