Starting Your Healthcare Career: The Nursing Assistant Program

A nursing assistant wearing a scrub suit is taking a patient's blood pressure using a wrist blood pressure monitor.

Are you passionate about improving healthcare and serving others? You might find success as a nursing assistant. Nursing assistants are critical in aiding nurses and other healthcare professionals and delivering direct patient care. This blog post covers what nursing assistants do, where they work, how much it costs to train, how long the program lasts, how to become licensed, what career prospects there are, and how much they do CNAs earn.

What are the duties and responsibilities of nursing assistants?

As a nursing assistant, you will provide essential patient care in different healthcare settings like hospitals, nursing homes, and even homes. Your duties may include:

  • Helping patients with daily activities like bathing, dressing, and eating.
  • Assisting patients with moving and walking safely.
  • Recording vital signs like temperature, blood pressure, and pulse.
  • Keeping track of patient information and reporting any changes in their condition.
  • Supporting nurses during procedures and treatments.
  • Keeping the environment clean and organized.

Work Environment: 

As a nursing assistant, you can work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics, and more. The work environment can be demanding, and you need physical strength as you may have to lift and move patients. You might work full-time, part-time, or on a schedule that includes evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Cost and Program Length:

The cost of a nursing assistant program can vary depending on where you study. Community colleges, vocational schools, and trade schools offer these programs. It can cost a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Financial aid, scholarships, and grants may be available to help you with the cost.

The program usually lasts between 4 to 12 weeks. During the program, you will learn in classrooms and get hands-on experience to develop the skills you need to provide good care to patients.

Licensing Requirements: 

In most states, you must be certified or licensed as a nursing assistant. To get licensed, you must complete an approved nursing assistant program and pass an exam. The exam may have a written part and a skills evaluation. Once you pass, you can apply for your CNA license from the state nursing board or a designated regulatory agency, submitting an application form, proof of training and exam results, and paying the necessary fees.

Job Opportunities and Demand: 

There is a high demand for nursing assistants because of the growing population and increased healthcare needs. The number of nursing assistant jobs is expected to grow 5 percent from 2021 to 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means there will be around 220,200 new job openings for nursing assistants in the next decade.

You can find job opportunities in hospitals, nursing homes, home healthcare agencies, assisted living facilities, and hospices. Many nursing assistants use their experience as a starting point to further their careers by getting more education and training in nursing or other healthcare jobs.

How much do CNAs earn?

The salary of a nursing assistant can vary depending on things like experience, location, and where you work. In May 2021, the median annual wage for nursing assistants was $30,310. With more experience and additional certifications, you can earn more. Some employers also offer benefits like health insurance and retirement plans.

Top-Earning Work Settings for CNAs

Government - $37,310

Hospitals; state, local, and private - $35,870

Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) - $29,970

Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly - $29,900

Home healthcare services - $29,280

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) commonly work in two main places: nursing care facilities and hospitals. Among these, skilled nursing facilities have the most job opportunities and the highest number of CNAs. Assisted living facilities and retirement communities for the elderly also have a good amount of CNA positions.

Even though nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) have the most CNAs, government jobs pay the most compared to the other work settings mentioned above.

Final Thoughts: 

The Nursing Assistant Program is a great way to start a rewarding healthcare career. By enrolling in a reputable community college, vocational school, or trade school program, you can gain the skills and knowledge needed to provide caring and compassionate patient support. With a short program length and good job prospects, becoming a nursing assistant opens doors to a fulfilling career with opportunities for growth and advancement.

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