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Nursing Assistant

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Quick Facts: Nursing Assistants
2021 Median Pay $30,290 per year
$14.56 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2021 1,389,900
Job Outlook, 2021-31 5% (as fast as average)
Employment Change, 2021-31 64,900

What Nursing Assistants Do

Nursing assistants, sometimes called nursing aides, provide basic care and help patients with activities of daily living. Orderlies transport patients and clean treatment areas.

Duties

Nursing assistants and orderlies work as part of a healthcare team under the supervision of licensed practical nurses and registered nurses.

Nursing assistants typically do the following:

  • Clean and bathe patients
  • Help patients use the toilet and dress
  • Turn, reposition, and transfer patients between beds and wheelchairs
  • Listen to and record patients’ health concerns and report that information to nurses
  • Measure patients’ vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature
  • Serve meals and help patients eat
Nursing Assistant

Depending on their training level and the state in which they work, nursing assistants also may dispense medication.

Nursing assistants are often the principal caregivers in nursing and residential care facilities. Nursing assistants often develop relationships with their patients because some patients stay in these facilities for months or years.

Orderlies typically do the following:

  • Help patients to move around the facility, such as by pushing their wheelchairs
  • Clean equipment and facilities
  • Change linens
  • Stock supplies


Work Environment

Most nursing assistants and orderlies work in nursing and residential care facilities and in hospitals. They are physically active and may need to help lift or move patients.

Work Schedules

Although most nursing assistants and orderlies work full time, some work part time. Because nursing and residential care facilities and hospitals provide care at all hours, nursing assistants and orderlies may need to work nights, weekends, and holidays.

Injuries and Illnesses

Nursing assistants and orderlies have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. These workers frequently move patients and have other physically demanding tasks. They typically get training in how to properly lift people, which can reduce the risk of injuries.



How to Become a Nursing Assistant

Nursing assistants typically must complete a state-approved education program and pass their state’s competency exam. Orderlies typically have at least a high school diploma or equivalent.

Education

Nursing assistants often need to complete a state-approved education program that includes both instruction on the principles of nursing and supervised clinical work. These programs are available in high schools, community colleges, vocational and technical schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.

In addition, nursing assistants typically complete a brief period of on-the-job training to learn about their specific employer’s policies and procedures.

Orderlies typically have at least a high school diploma or equivalent and receive a short period of on-the-job training.

Important Qualities

Nursing Assistant

Communication Skills — Nursing assistants and orderlies must listen and respond to patients’ concerns. They also need to share information with other healthcare workers.

Compassion — Nursing assistants and orderlies help and care for people who are sick, injured, or need aid for other reasons. They need an empathetic attitude to do their work.

Patience — The routine tasks of cleaning, feeding, and bathing patients may be stressful. Nursing assistants and orderlies must be able to complete these tasks with professionalism.

Physical Stamina — Nursing assistants and orderlies spend much of their time on their feet. They must be able to perform tasks such as lifting or moving patients.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Specific requirements for nursing assistants vary by state. Nursing assistants often need a state-issued license or certification. After completing an approved education program, nursing assistants often must pass a competency exam, which allows them to use state-specific titles. In some states, a nursing assistant is called a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), but titles vary by state.

Nursing assistants who have passed the competency exam are placed on a state registry. They must be on the state registry to work in a nursing home.

Some states have other requirements as well, such as continuing education and a criminal background check. Check with state certifying agencies for more information.

In some states, nursing assistants may earn additional credentials, such as Certified Medication Assistant (CMA). As a CMA, they may dispense medications.

Orderlies do not need a license; however, jobs might require certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or basic life support (BLS).

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook



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