Nursing Aides and Attendants
|Recommended Degree Level||Certificate or Higher|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||0|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||3.0%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||49,610|
- Entry-level nursing assistants must have completed high school or its equivalent and gone through a nursing aide program.
- Some high schools offer nursing assistant training, but it is more common to take courses and earn a certificate at a community college or vocational school.
- Some large hospitals also offer training and licensing as well as certification to become a Certified Nursing Assistant.
- Additional education can help the nursing aide who intends to specialize in one area of care.
What you study:
Nursing assistant programs generally include coursework in:
- Human anatomy and physiology
- Time management
- Introductory psychology
- Fundamentals of nursing
A brief introduction to the work of nursing aides. Produced for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
Your day as a nursing assistant could begin early in the morning, but because many patients in hospitals, hospices and long-term care facilities need around-the-clock care, you might also opt for an evening or overnight shift. Depending on where you work, your shifts could be long; your current position in a long-term care facility for elderly people requires 12-hour shifts for continuity of care. Fortunately, the pace of your current work is fairly low-key, unlike the shorter and busier shifts you had as an emergency room nursing aide.
As you arrive at the center, you coordinate with the shift supervisor. Learning about the patients in your care from the nursing report is important, but so is direct communication with the previous shift. A report can tell you that a patient got her medication, but the nurse who gave it to her can tell you how easily she accepted it. One of the residents who has advanced dementia had difficulty taking her medication, and you make a note to allot extra time to working with her today.
You play a key role in keeping patients comfortable. As you make your initial rounds, you'll almost certainly be asked to help with a bedpan or assist with feeding. These actions help your patients feel more comfortable and cared for, but they also serve an important medical function. Monitoring patients' fluid intake and output is vital to their care. During your rounds, you make a point of spending time with each patient. For some of them, you're a primary source of social contact, and taking a few minutes to talk with residents is part of your work.
When it's time to change bed linens, you prepare yourself for an argument with the patient who'd given the previous shift difficulty. On some days, her dementia makes her angry and fearful. It's difficult, but part of the compassionate care you provide is offering it even when a patient can't accept it. Fortunately, the patient seems clearer after a nap and greets you with a smile instead of suspicion. You and she talk about the pleasures of freshly washed sheets as you change the linens; she recounts happy memories of hanging laundry on the line as you help her back to bed.
Your shift is largely uneventful, although you do have to bathe and help change a patient who didn't call for a bedpan in time. When you worked in an emergency room gathering and delivering specimens, assisting with wound care and reassuring frightened patients, the pace was more hectic. You've also begun to appreciate how consistent care lets you get to know your patients. By the time your shift ends, you're tired but fulfilled. It's time to give your report to the next shift and head home.
Certifications and Licensing
All states currently require passing an examination to become a nursing assistant or orderly. The test usually has a written component and a practical component. In some states, passing the exam earns a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) license, but other states use different terms for nursing aides who have passed.
Full-time versus part-time:
No matter where they work, nursing assistants have patients who rely on them. While shift lengths and times are flexible, the nature of the work requires attentiveness and diligence throughout the shift.
Nursing assistants typically work in assisted care and long-term residential care facilities, hospitals and hospices, but some provide home health care.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Nursing Aides, Orderlies and Attendants – Visitors to this BLS site will find a wide-angle view of the profession, including expected growth rates, average salaries and a general job description. While the website does not provide an in-depth look at nursing assistants' work, it is an excellent place to start the search for more information.
- National Association of Health Care Assistants – With more than 40,000 members, this not-for-profit group is one of the largest organizations for nursing assistants. Find advocacy information, assistance with continuing education and an extensive Member Resource Center that forms a network of support for new and established nursing aides. NAHCA focuses primarily on care for elderly people, but all aspects of patient care are addressed on the site.
- National Network of Career Nursing Assistants – From emergency room assistants to long-term care workers, the NNCNA offers a comprehensive website to prospective and current caregivers across a wide spectrum of nursing assistant positions. The organization's focus is on health care workers who have chosen a career in direct patient care as a nursing assistant. Visitors can find advice on how to transfer certification to another state, where to find training and how to find peer support.