The healthcare industry has been a very active field of employment in recent years, and its growth is expected to continue, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The agency predicts that employment in healthcare will rise by 18 percent, or about 2.3 million new jobs, by 2026. That means that the healthcare field is expected to add more jobs than any other occupational group, and healthcare workers, including Nursing Assistants, are likely to see a growing number of employment opportunities throughout the coming decade.
What is a Nursing Assistant?
A Nursing Assistant is a person who provides basic care to patients in a variety of healthcare settings. They work under the supervision of Licensed Practical Nurses and/or Registered Nurses. These healthcare workers are also commonly referred to as Nursing Aides or Nurses' Aides in the workplace.
Nursing Assistants: Job Responsibilities
The job responsibilities of nursing assistants vary widely from one employment situation to another. They also differ from state to state, according to the regulations governing the scope of their duties set forth by each state's Board of Nursing. Despite these differences, there are some general duties that Nursing Assistants are responsible for in most states and employment settings, such as:
- Helping patients with personal care tasks, like bathing, dressing, skin care and oral care
- Assisting patients with grooming tasks, such as hair care or shaving, for instance
- Serving meals and helping patients eat when necessary
- Providing toileting assistance
- Catheter care
- Turning and repositioning patients in bed
- Transferring patients, such as between beds and wheelchairs
- Measuring, recording and reporting vital signs
- Listen to, observe, record and report patients' general condition, health issues and other concerns
- Assisting patients with walking, using gait belts, walkers, canes and other necessary devices
- Helping patients with range of motion exercises
- Making beds
- Post-mortem care
In many healthcare settings, especially residential care facilities, nursing facilities and other long-term care facilities, Nursing Assistants are the primary hand-on caregivers of patients.
Employment Settings for Nursing Assistants
The most common employment settings for Nursing Assistants in 2016, according to BLS figures, were nursing care and skilled nursing facilities. About 40 percent of the 1.5 million Nursing Assistants holding jobs during that year worked in these types of facilities. About 26 percent worked in state, local and private hospitals. Approximately 11 percent were employed by continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities. Home healthcare services accounted for 5 percent of Nursing assistant jobs, and 4 percent of Nursing Assistants worked for government.
Nursing Assistants: Career Outlook
Employment of Nursing Assistants is expected to increase by 11 percent by the year 2026, according to BLS projections. This is a faster rate of job growth than the average for all occupations. The agency states that much of that growth will stem from the aging of the baby-boom population, which will lead to increasing demand for Nursing Assistants in long term care facilities. That is because aging populations typically see greater incidence of conditions that will require the type of care provided by Nursing Assistants, such as Alzheimer disease and dementia, diabetes and heart disease, among many others.
High turnover rates in Nursing Assistant positions also factors into the high demand for these healthcare workers. Among the reasons for those high employee turnover rates, according to BLS, are the emotional and physical demands of these positions. Additionally, many Nursing Assistants use these jobs as stepping stones to more advanced positions in the healthcare field, eventually moving on to Medical Assistant, Licensed Practical Nurse, or Registered Nurse positions, for instance.
These projections and facts can provide some idea of the employment prospects for Nursing Assistants. However, it is important to be aware that job market data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook is intended to provide insight on occupational opportunities and is not to be construed as a guarantee of salary or job title. Neither BLS nor Bryant & Stratton College can guarantee employment in this field of employment of any other.
Becoming a Nursing Assistant: Educational Requirements
To become a Nursing Assistant, individuals must complete a state-approved education program, which includes a requirement for supervised clinical work. These courses may be offered by high schools, community colleges, vocational schools and technical schools, among other educational settings. Some hospitals, nursing homes and home healthcare agencies also offer Nursing Assistant training courses.
After completing their education, aspiring Nursing assistants must pass a state-approved competency test to become certified for employment in the field. Generally, Nursing Assistants must also successfully complete a period of on-the-job training to qualify for continued employment.
Nursing Assistants, in most states, must pass criminal background checks to qualify to work in virtually all healthcare settings. Many states and/or employers also require drug testing. Some states require that Nursing Assistants comply with continuing education guidelines to maintain their status as a certified or state-approved Nursing assistant. Many states offer additional credentials for Nursing Assistants who choose to pursue them. Among the most common are certifications that qualify them to give medications.
For more information on a career in the nursing field, please visit the healthcare degree section on the Bryant & Stratton College blog. Exploring our website can also offer further insight on careers in the nursing field and many other areas of the healthcare industry.