Nursing assistants perform a variety of hands-on tasks to care for patients in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and health centers. They usually work under the supervision and direction of a registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN) or medical staff member. Other titles for individuals in this profession include hospital attendant, nursing aide, nurse aide, patient care technician, geriatric aide, and orderly. The title, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) applies to individuals who have met state certification requirements to work in skilled nursing facilities, and most especially in facilities that accept Medicare residents.

Nursing Aides And Attendants picture    Nursing Aides And Attendants image

Nursing Assistant Schools

Nursing assistants usually require completion of a formal training program. These programs can be found in:

  • High schools
  • Community colleges
  • Vocational and technical schools
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes

In addition, nursing assistant education requirements include completing a number of hours of on-the-job training, usually with a future employer. They must have a high school diploma, and can become certified too.

Nursing Assistant Training and Courses

Completion of a formal training program is required for this profession. Programs are generally offered through high schools, private vocational schools and technical centers, Regional Occupational Programs, adult education programs, nursing care facilities, and community and two-year colleges. Programs may take anywhere from two to five weeks to complete; courses typically include:

  • Nutrition
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Body mechanics
  • Infection control
  • Resident rights
  • Communication skills
  • Personal care skills

Some employers offer classroom training while others may provide on-the-job training under the direct supervision of a general duty nurse or LPN. On-the-job training can last anywhere from several days to a few months. Nursing Assistants may also attend lectures, workshops, and in-service training sessions.

An individual in this profession must be in good health; most states require a physical examination, including state-regulated tests for diseases such as tuberculosis. A criminal background check is also a common requirement.

CNA Certification

Federal Government requirements exist for Nursing Assistants who are employed by nursing care facilities. Individuals who work in these environments are required to complete a state-approved training program that must meet a 75-hour minimum requirement and include 16 hours of supervised clinical training. Aides who complete the program and pass a competency evaluation will have achieved the level of CNA, or State Tested Nurse Aide (STNA), and will be added on the state registry of Nursing Aides. To maintain their certification, Aides must complete 12 hours of continuing education, on an annual basis.

When it comes to advancement, opportunities are limited. Moving on to health occupations generally requires formal education or training. Most Aides and Attendants move on to become RNs, LPNs, or Medical Assistants.

Resource for Nursing Assistants

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Nursing Aides and Attendants

To find out more about building a career as Nursing Aides, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :
Nursing Aides and Attendants

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Nursing And Residential Care 775,510 54% $23,030
Hospital 421,850 29% $25,020
Medical Office 74,810 5% $23,650
Government 71,410 5% $27,890
Office Services And Staffing 46,110 3% $25,210
Social Service 18,020 1% $21,040
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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Nursing Aides and Attendants.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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