How You Can Become a Nursing Assistant

If you want to become a nursing assistant, aka nursing aid, you will need to evaluate the work, the training and the career opportunities. The skills of a nursing assistant are very much in demand. The job itself it portable and can be used across a wide range of the health sector.

Education and Certification

Basic nursing assistant skills are available from the Red Cross, vocational and community colleges. It's possible to do this training from scratch, and while a High School Diploma is the baseline entry requirement, it's worth checking with your local colleges about these requirements.

In the US, the common standard certification is the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) accreditation, which is required under Federal law. It's a state-based certification, and it's also the preferred standard for employment in the US. The training involves classroom and practical work, including working under the supervision of a nurse. State requirements vary, but the normal requirement is 75 hours of pre-employment training. Upon completion, trainees must take an examination including both a written test and practical tests in patient care. The requirements of the practical tests can vary considerably, involving various aspects of the nursing assistant's role. Once the certification is complete, the CNA is then placed on a state register.

Training and work

The actual training is extremely important, because these are all primary skills upon which the work is based. The "nursing assistant" title is a good description of the work involved. It's important to get thorough grounding in the culture and the standard practices of the industry.

The work of a nursing assistant is also an excellent training and orientation for those looking at becoming nurses. Although the nursing assistant role and responsibilities doesn't have the same high demands and responsibilities of nurses, this is front line health care work in the truest sense. The job includes working with many of the elements and issues of basic nursing. Working with experienced nurses is an education in itself, giving invaluable training and professional insights.

The work includes:

  • Practical patient care: This means everything from bathing and moving patients to changing bedpans and other critical patient care. This includes general maintenance of patient and ward facilities, keeping the area of care up to proper standards of cleanliness and efficiency. 
  • Diet and nutrition: Depending on the job, a nursing assistant working in care facilities may have to feed patients and advise and monitor nutrition.
  • General assistance: This rather broad definition includes setting up equipment, handling stores, and assistance with procedures. In practice it means "other duties as directed", within the context of the job description. Operation of medical technology and systems is also an increasing part of the nursing assistant's role.

The work environment

Although the description "nursing assistant" suggests a generic type of work, workplaces and duties can vary significantly. The nature of the health care being provided, quality of services and the variable standards of facility mean that a nursing assistant can find each job very different. Experienced nursing assistants, like nurses, have high personal standards and tend to gravitate to higher quality services.