Nursing Assistant Career Information

The nursing assistant is the round the clock labor force in the workplace. The work is continuous, and covers all aspects of the facility in which the nursing assistant works. Whether it's an assisted living center, a psychiatric care center or a hospital, nursing assistants are the support system for the operations. Nursing assistants work across many fields within the health care industry. This diversity gives them experience in many of the different facets of health care, and often leads to specialization in a particular sector.

The work environment

Although nursing assistants don't perform any medical procedures, they provide support for many different types of services, under the supervision of a qualified nurse. Most nursing assistants also regularly assist with the functions of the facility, performing many of the basic tasks of care. These include:

  • Maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in patient care
  • Washing and feeding patients
  • Changing bedpans
  • Acting as supports to patient health care regimes
  • Basic administrative tasks
  • Helping prepare medication for delivery to patients
  • Delivering medication
  • Assisting incapacitated or less mobile patients with daily routines

Nursing assistants often upgrade their role through a combination of experience and additional qualifications. Sometimes, they receive additional training at their work location. A nursing assistant will have significant responsibility in patient care roles, ensuring many patient care procedures are carried out. They work closely with nurses in what are often very complex care regimes, assisting with things like pain management and other vital tasks.

In practice, nursing assistants may be called upon to provide active participation in all health care management environments, and assist medical practitioners as required. Because there are a few functions that a nursing assistant is not permitted to perform by law, they act instead as monitors and observers of patients and in conjunction with nursing staff. They also tend to emergency situations arising regarding patients in their care are escalated to the appropriate level for immediate response. 

A nursing assistant typically earns $10 to $13 an hour. This can vary considerably. In a private contract, an experienced nursing assistant may earn a considerable higher income. Their job description may include administration pay. Although nursing assistants work set hours or shifts, in practice many will self-manage extra work and do extra hours as required.

The career environment

Career advancement is highly variable in such a range of roles. Job mobility is a factor in how nursing assistants achieve career progression. They may use their experience in related areas to obtain higher levels of work in the industry. Nursing assistants may also progress through training and qualifications to become fully qualified nurses. In these cases their experience as nursing assistants is invaluable, giving them an excellent orientation and grounding in the realities of the work of their health care. They "speak the language" of their sectors, and know all the fundamental operational requirements of the sectors in which they work.