Becoming a Nursing Assistant
A nursing assistant is an integral part of the health care team – they work together with nurses, doctors and other licensed health professionals in order to provide basic nursing and other health care services. Also known as a nurse aide or nurse assistant, they are usually employed in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, doctor’s offices, private homes, mobile clinics and other work settings. Nursing assistants usually attend to patients who cannot fully take care of themselves such as children, the injured, and the elderly. They help ensure that patients are properly fed, groomed, and given their medications on time.
Individuals looking to have a career as a nursing assistant are required to receive education and training from accredited community colleges, medical facilities or nursing assistant schools. They may also receive training from related organizations such as the Red Cross. The educational program is usually a certificate program that generally takes about 6 to 12 weeks to complete, with an equivalent of approximately 50 hours of theoretical study and 100 hours of clinical training. A high school diploma or GED is also a primary requirement before receiving training in this field. Nursing assistant programs usually revolve around medical courses such as anatomy and physiology, as well as other related subjects such as nutrition, healthy diet and infection control.
After receiving classroom instruction, students will then receive what is called clinical training – this is where everything that you have learned will now be applied in to practice, under the careful supervision of a licensed health practitioner. And because nursing assistant programs are very short in duration, missing your classes should be avoided as much as possible as most training facilities only allow an equivalent of up to six hours of absence. After completing the theoretical study and clinical training, you will then need to successfully complete a certification exam in order to be a Certified Nursing Assistant or CNA. The certification exam usually consists of two sets – written and practical exams. For most states, an examinee must score at least 80 percent in order to receive certification.
Besides undergoing training, an aspiring nursing assistant must also possess certain attributes such as good oral and written communication skills, excellent physical fitness and dexterity, courtesy, proper hygiene, fast reflexes, and a keen eye for detail as well. All these are needed since nursing assistants are usually involved with a wide variety of physical and mental work – they usually stand for long periods of time, lift or turn patients, assist patients in the bathroom, deliver and serve meals to patients, maintain cleanliness of patient rooms, operate and lift medical equipment, take vital signs of patients, and measure blood pressure.
When it comes to nursing assistant salary, entry-level jobs usually range anywhere from $8 to $10 per hour, while those who have more experience earn around $10 to $15 per hour. It is important to keep in mind though that salaries will always be dependent on factors such as geographical location and the skills and experience of the nursing assistant. For example, nursing aides who work in California or New York City tend to have higher salary thresholds since they work in an area with a high cost of living. The potential for earning bonuses, receiving health insurance and retirement benefits are also very good in this medical field.
Based on the data gathered from the United States Labor Statistics, there is an estimated growth factor of 19 percent for nursing assistant jobs through the year 2018. With the increasing number of the elderly and the preference of more people for in-home treatment, job growth is expected to consistently increase at a very fast rate; this holds especially true for those who work in nursing homes, doctor’s offices and hospitals.