Top Skills and Qualifications for Nursing Assistants

Nursing Assistant helping a senior patient in care

If you’re interested in a career as a nursing assistant (NA), you may have questions about which specific skills you need to be successful in the position.

Indeed, it takes a multitude of skills to succeed in any healthcare role, and a NA career is no different. So whether you’ve recently completed training or you’re already working in the field, here are  the most important qualities of successful NAs.

1.    Strong Attention to Detail

Nursing assistants must have good attention to detail. They work daily with data, patient charts, and forms containing pages of pertinent health information that they must accurately interpret and transcribe.

You also need to pay very close attention to patients’ nonverbal cues and be on the lookout for any physical or mental health changes. Of all the nursing professions, NAs tend to provide the most direct and frequent care to patients—noticing these small details about a patient’s health can save lives.

2.    Excellent Communication Skills

Clear and direct communication is key for the career. Nursing assistants work directly with many different groups, from patients and their family members to doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and social workers.

Good written communication skills are also a must for NAs who need to communicate via clear and concise notes when reporting and documenting details about a patient’s wellbeing.

3.    Knowledge of Medical Terminology

NAs should know the wording pertaining to infections, conditions, and general medical terminology to follow proper safety protocols and communicate effectively with other healthcare workers.

4.    Patience

Patience is one of the must-have NA skills because nursing assistants are responsible for providing constant comfort and care.

By remaining patient and keeping a calm and supportive demeanor, NAs can provide the best possible care without exacerbating an already challenging situation.

5.    Empathy and Compassion

Empathy and compassion are soft skills that are crucial for every type of healthcare job, including nursing assistants. Successful NAs use these two qualities daily, especially when working in nursing homes.

6.    Flexibility

Every day is different—some days are smooth sailing while others can feel much more challenging. And, with shortages across the country, nursing assistants may be asked to work weekend shifts, switch shifts, or work more hours than initially scheduled.

Working day in and day out with sick and elderly patients also requires significant flexibility. A method or care approach that works for one patient may not work for another, so NAs must rely on their creativity and flexibility to adapt to ever-shifting personalities and priorities. Remaining flexible, professional, and on-task no matter what comes up is an essential trait for NAs.

7.    Optimism

During nursing assistant work, NAs inevitably run into some difficult, sometimes negative situations. However, it’s important to stay enthusiastic and positive—this optimism radiates to patients and coworkers and helps foster an overall healthy and happy environment.

Plus, finding the best in every situation and not letting the bad days get them down can contribute to good overall mental health and less burnout for NAs.

Sumner College offers Nursing Assistant classes on our Arizona campus. Learn more