Nursing assistants are responsible for helping nurses provide basic care for patients in hospitals and nursing care facilities. Typically, their duties include cleaning and bathing patients, transferring patients between bed and wheelchairs, recording patients' health concerns, and measuring patients' vital signs. Depending upon their training, some nurses are also allowed to dispense medications. In many nursing homes, nursing assistants are the principal caregivers.
According to the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly half of the country's nursing assistants in 2012 were employed by nursing care facilities. Hospitals, residential care facilities and home health care services also employed nursing assistants. These facilities provide round-the-clock care to patients, so nursing assistants are often required to work evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays.
While orderlies often need a high school diploma only, nursing assistants must complete an approved education program that may vary from state to state. In most instances, these programs involve taking courses in the basic principles of nursing and completing supervised clinic hours. Once this program is complete, potential nursing assistants must also take a competency exam that's administered by the state they plan to work in. There is also usually a significant amount of on-the-job training, as each company may have different requirements for its staff. In some states, continuing education and background checks are also required before an applicant can become a certified nursing assistant.
Certified Nursing Assistant Job Market
In 2012, nursing assistants held about 1.5 million jobs. The employment rate for nursing assistants is expected to grow 21 percent by 2022, as an aging population begins to need additional care. However, while the demand for nursing assistants is sure to rise, hiring may be constrained by the reliance of nursing homes on government funding. Nursing assistants looking to work in home health and rehabilitation services may see an increase in demand as patient preferences shift toward home and community-based long-term care. Particularly in home health care services, nursing assistants should expect to find many employment opportunities.
Certified Nursing Assistant Job Salary Information
For nursing assistants, the median annual wage was about $24,000 or about $12.00 an hour in 2012. The top 10 percent of nursing assistants earned over $35,330. Nursing assistants can return to school and receive additional training to become registered nurses, which would allow them to earn more money.