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Being a Nursing Assistant

What does a nursing assistant do?

A nursing assistant is a healthcare professional who helps patients with their basic daily care. They work closely with their patients under the supervision of a licensed nurse. A nursing assistant plays a vital role in ensuring that patients are comfortable and have their personal needs met. Another critical aspect of the role is to keep the managing nurse up-to-date with information regarding patients’ conditions and mental states.

Additional responsibilities for a nursing assistant include:

  • Monitoring patient health and vital signs

  • Reporting all changes or important observations to the nurse

  • Keeping patient documentation up to date and taking medical histories

  • Toileting assistance and care of catheters

  • Making beds and changing bedding

  • Helping the patient get dressed

  • Bathing, showering and teeth cleaning

  • Feeding and helping the patient drink

  • Turning bedridden patients on a schedule

  • Guiding the patient with exercises

Average salary

Nursing assistant salaries vary depending on factors that include the qualifications and experience of the individual. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $15.25 per hour

  • Some salaries range from $7.25 to $26.65 per hour.

Nursing assistant requirements

Nursing assistants need to have a range of skills and qualifications, including:

Education – Sumner College Arizona offers a nursing assistant class that starts every month

Nursing assistants typically complete their education through an accredited nursing assistant program. In addition to a high school diploma or GED, a nursing assistant must complete a six- to 12-week Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certificate program at a community or vocational college. The National Association for Home Care offers national certification for nursing assistants. The program consists of both clinical experience with patients and classroom instruction, which generally includes the following:

  • Basic nursing skills

  • Health assessment

  • Human anatomy and physiology

  • Nutrition

  • Infection control

  • Medical ethics

The specific regulations on training and certification for nursing assistants vary by state so you should determine what your state requirements are. Most programs require that students have current vaccinations because you will be working directly with vulnerable patients.


Most employers provide their new nursing assistants with an orientation program that prepares them for the role and welcomes them to the institution. You will work with a registered nurse and may also shadow an experienced nursing assistant as they care for their patients. You will learn about the procedures and paperwork that your role entails. Your employer may also offer workshops and classes to train you on the specific aspects of your new organization, including health and safety, risk management and the objectives of the organization.


To earn your license as a certified nursing assistant, you will need to pass an exam that consists of multiple-choice questions regarding patient rights, patients’ daily needs, ethical behavior, communication skills and working as part of a team. There is also a practical test where you must demonstrate your skills while caring for patients.

After obtaining your CNA license, you will need to complete 48 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain it. Check with your state board for up-to-date information on licensing requirements. Most employers cover the cost of classes for their employees.

Earning other certifications can help you stand out among other candidates while searching for a job. You may choose to specialize as a nursing assistant for specific disorders or particular patient groups. Nursing assistant careers and specializations are varied and include the following:

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

The American Heart Association accredits this certification. It is offered by a wide range of providers who also offer the training materials. If you are working as a nursing assistant in a hospital, the CPR certification is highly desirable. You will be trained to resuscitate patients who have experienced a cardiac episode. Generally, the courses are two to three hours in duration and you will earn a certification that is valid for two years.

Certified Wound Care Associate

 The American Board of Wound Management offers this credential. You will need to take an examination and have three years of wound care experience to earn this certification.


As a nursing assistant, you will be interacting directly with both patients and the medical team. You must demonstrate a range of skills that include:


Your patients need to feel supported and you must treat them with empathy and compassion. You will also need to communicate with the patient’s friends and families who could be worried and anxious about their loved one. The patients may have delicate states of health, both physically and mentally. Your job is to provide their care but also to calm and reassure them. Without compassion, you cannot be an effective nursing assistant.

Organizational skills

Most nursing assistants care for multiple patients. This means that you will need to keep a range of medication, care plans and management styles organized. It is vital to ensure that each patient receives the care they need. You could be working with minimal supervision so you must be able to manage your workload to provide the best level of care.


As you will frequently be working alone with patients, you must be able to communicate with them effectively. This includes both verbal and written communication. You will need to record patient and treatment information correctly and relay necessary information to the rest of the health care team.

Attention to detail

You must read instructions regarding diet and medication carefully. There may be notes on wound care or treatment plans that you must both follow exactly and record information accurately.

Nursing assistant work environment

Nursing assistants often work for a hospital, clinic or agency that provides home help. Patients and nursing assistants are paired together depending on the patient’s needs and specialty of the nursing assistant. The nursing assistant could work within the home of the patient or in a hospital ward. They may provide dedicated care to just one patient, or they may care for several patients simultaneously. Patients need care throughout the day and night, so nursing assistants could work full or part time hours, rotating shift patterns or overnights.

The nursing assistant role involves working closely with the patients and their families for most of the working shift. These professionals may also complete administrative tasks at the office or in the patient’s home.

The job of a nursing assistant could include the following characteristics:

  • Bending and stretching

  • Lifting and turning patients

  • Standing and walking for extended periods of time

  • Traveling by car to patients’ homes

How to become a nursing assistant

Follow these steps to start your career as a nursing assistant:

1. Pursue education

Nursing assistants typically need to obtain a high school diploma or GED and complete an accredited nursing assistant program.

2. Review job listings for nursing assistants in your state

They will give you a good idea of the level of education that employers in your area require.

3. Become licensed in your state.

You must complete this step to work legally as a nursing assistant in your state. Review your state’s requirements for licensure.

4. Consider earning certifications

When you are applying for jobs, you may gain an advantage as a candidate for nursing assistant positions if you hold additional certifications.

5. Create a resume

Your resume is your opportunity to show a potential employer why you are suitable for the role. Include education, qualifications, work history and the soft skills that you possess that make you the right candidate for the job.

6. Apply for jobs

Search local job listings to find nursing assistant jobs that match your qualifications and experience. Make sure that you tailor your resume and cover letter for every job application, as it will help you make your application stand out.

Nursing assistant job description example

Cleveland Clinic is expanding quickly and we have multiple positions available for highly skilled, caring and friendly nursing assistants. The ideal candidate will understand the importance of providing outstanding patient care and support and be able to make our patients feel comfortable and valued. You must also be able to work effectively as part of a team. We will only consider applications from state-certified nursing assistants who have a minimum of three years of experience in a similar role.

Your role will be to offer a range of services that include:

  • Providing patients physical support with personal hygiene and daily care

  • Turning and repositioning bedridden patients

  • Ensuring patients receive the appropriate nutrition

  • Measuring and recording vital signs and reporting changes to the charge nurse

  • Helping patients take medications

  • Observing and reporting patient behavior


Learn more about Nursing Assistant:


Nursing Assistant Skills and Qualifications

Top Skills and Qualifications for Nursing Assistants

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 

Five Careers You Can Start with Short-Term Training

Content Shared from


What Phlebotomists Do: Phlebotomists draw blood for tests, transfusions, research, or blood donations.

Work Environment: Phlebotomists work mainly in hospitals, medical and diagnostic laboratories, blood donor centers, and doctors’ offices.

Pay: The median annual wage for phlebotomists was $36,320 in May 2020.

Job Outlook: Employment of phlebotomists is projected to grow 17 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, blood donor centers, and other locations will need phlebotomists to perform bloodwork.

How to Become a Phlebotomist: Phlebotomists typically enter the occupation with a certificate from a phlebotomy program. Almost all employers look for phlebotomists who have earned professional certification.

Certified nursing assistant

What Nursing Assistants Do: Nursing assistants provide basic care and help patients with activities of daily living.

Work Environment: Most nursing assistants work in nursing and residential care facilities and in hospitals. They are physically active and may need to help lift or move patients.

Pay: The median annual wage for nursing assistants was $30,850 in May 2020.

Job Outlook: Overall employment of nursing assistants is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. As the baby-boom population ages, nursing assistants will be needed to help care for an increasing number of older patients.

How to Become a Nursing Assistant: Nursing assistants often need to complete a state-approved education program and pass their state’s competency exam to become licensed or certified.

Commercial truck driver

What Truck Drivers Do: Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers transport goods from one location to another.

Work Environment: Working as a long-haul truck driver is a lifestyle choice because these drivers can be away from home for days or weeks at a time.

Pay: The median annual wage for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers was $47,130 in May 2020.

Job Outlook: Employment of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations. As the demand for goods increases, more truck drivers will be needed to keep supply chains moving.

How to Become a Commercial Truck Driver: Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers usually have a high school diploma and attend a professional truck driving school. They must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

Personal Trainer (or Fitness Trainer or Instructor)

What Fitness Trainers and Instructors Do: Fitness trainers and instructors lead, instruct, and motivate individuals or groups in exercise activities.

Work Environment: Fitness trainers and instructors work in facilities such as recreation centers, health clubs, and yoga studios. Many work variable or part-time schedules that may include nights, weekends, or holidays.

Pay: The median annual wage for fitness trainers and instructors was $40,510 in May 2020.

Job Outlook: Employment of fitness trainers and instructors is projected to grow 15 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. As businesses, government, and insurance organizations continue to recognize the benefits of health and fitness for their employees, incentives to join gyms or other types of health clubs are expected to increase the need for fitness trainers and instructors.

How to Become a Fitness Trainer or Instructor: The education and training typically required for fitness trainers and instructors varies by type of specialty, and employers prefer to hire those with certification.

Wind Turbine Technician

What Wind Turbine Technicians Do: Wind turbine service technicians install, maintain, and repair wind turbines.

Work Environment: Wind turbine service technicians generally work outdoors, in confined spaces, and often at great heights. Although the majority of windtechs work full time, they may also be on call to handle emergencies during evenings and weekends.

Pay: The median annual wage for wind turbine technicians was $56,230 in May 2020.

Job Outlook: Employment of wind turbine service technicians is projected to grow 61 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Because wind electricity generation is expected to grow rapidly over the coming decade, additional technicians will be needed to install and maintain new turbines. Job prospects are expected to be excellent.

How to Become a Wind Turbine Technician: Most wind turbine service technicians learn their trade by attending a technical school. They also receive on-the-job training.

Information in this article comes from the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the U.S. Depatment of Labor.

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