Nurse Assistant Careers

A nurse assistant works alongside registered nurses or licensed practical nurses to assist with basic nursing procedures, ADLs (activities of daily living) and bedside care. A nurse assistant is classed as unlicensed assistive personnel (UAL) and the job is variously called patient care assistant, patient care technician, nurse aid or nurse tech. Nurse assistants are expected to be certificated. It is not mandatory except for nursing care homes. With demand for UAL expected to increase by 20% through 2018, now is a good time to start on a caring, varied, and rewarding career.

Nurse Assistant Philosophy

The very simple premise of the role of the nurse assistant is that an individual has the right for their basic physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs to be fulfilled. This applies to a health or care giving situation and the nurse assistant is on the front line administering to these needs. A nurse assistant is not medically qualified so there is no administering of medication and most procedures are off limits but the NA is usually the person who the patient has most interaction with during a hospital stay.

Education and Expected Salary

For a nurse assistant job you can obtain the CNA – Certified Nursing Certificate. This is the qualification that shows you have undertaken a course in meeting the needs of patients and understanding how your role fits in with the care giving team. The course also includes CPR training, a required standard for all CNAs. It is a requirement that you gain practical experience as well as classroom or online training and there is a minimum expectation of having completed 75 hours in a workplace environment although some states can request up to 150 hours. Once you have completed the course and reached the requisite number of hours of practical work, you can sit the exam.

Most courses ask for basic skills and you can typically be asked to take a reading test and a simple aptitude test but there are no educational barriers to becoming a CNA. It is more about the person you are. A CNA needs to love people and love caring for them. You need to be able to deal with people of all ages and of all temperaments. Being a CNA is not an autonomous position so you need a good teamwork ethic and to be able to communicate well. Above all, as a CNA you must be prepared to be very flexible.

As an unlicensed nurse assistant or CAN you can earn between $20,000 and $30,000 per year or $10-$14 per hour in unsalaried positions. CNAs have more earning potential and typically earn more than NAs.

Scope of Nurse Assistant Jobs

The career outlook for nurse assistants and other unlicensed assistant personal is good. As well as the increasing need for healthcare practitioners to cope with a greater demand being placed upon health services from both an ageing and growing population, the role of a NA or CNA will never be replaced by technology. Nurse assistant jobs are often used as the stepping stone to other careers in the health service field and many NAs and CNAs go on to become nurses.

Roles of a Nurse Assistant

An NA or CNA is usually the eyes and ears of the nursing team. You are expected to be skilled in the procedures you carry out and be observant to identify any changing symptom or indication in the patient. You will have a good understanding of emergency procedures, be able to initiate a code blue and have the confidence to put your CPR training into practice when needed. As an NA or CNA can work in differing care giving facilities the day to day jobs will vary but generally will consist of a good mix of the following:

  • Monitoring vital signs (temperature and blood pressure readings)
  • Mobility assistance – getting patients in and out of bed and to the bathroom
  • Washing and dressing patients
  • Helping out at meal times
  • Responding to calls for assistance
  • Keeping a patient company, just chatting or reading a book
  • Light cleaning including changing and making beds
  • Assist in post mortem care in the event of a patient’s death.

If you are tactful, sympathetic and enjoy working with people, being a nurse assistant may just be your ideal job.


Learn More: Becoming a Nurse Aide