Nursing Aides and Assistants

Nursing aides, hospital attendants, orderlies, geriatric aides, and certified nursing assistants administer routine medical treatments and perform other tasks while being supervised by registered nurses. Tasks vary by specialty, but aides are assigned generalized patient care duties. They assist patients with bathing, dressing, and eating. They also respond to assistance calls, make beds, clean and sterilize rooms, and relay messages to nurses. Aides are often assigned to take patients’ blood pressure, respiration and pulse rates, and body temperature. Additionally, they provide patient care by assisting physically impaired patients move around and get out of bed, and they administer basic skin care medicines. Aides also assist other medical specialists by organizing equipment, storing supplies, and helping with certain medical procedures. Likewise, aides monitor patients’ emotional and physical states and report abnormalities to nurses.

Nursing aides working at assisted living facilities are usually primary caregivers and interact with patients more frequently than other staff members. Since residents of these facilities typically stay for extended periods of time, aides often develop friendships with residents.

Education and Training

High schools, vocational schools, some assisted living facilities, and certain community colleges offer formal nurse aide training programs. Students complete courses in physiology, anatomy, nutrition, body function, resident rights, and infection control. Additionally, students learn patient care skills, which include assisting patients groom, eat, and bathe. Many hospitals prefer hiring aides with previous home health or nursing aide experience.

Promotion opportunities for nursing aides are limited. Aides must usually complete additional training to make career transitions. Many former nursing aides become registered and licensed practical nurses and medical assistants.

Job Outlook

Job growth for nursing assistants is expected to increase at an above average rate. Trained nursing aides should enjoy excellent job prospects.

Job growth for nursing aides is expected to increase by 18 percent through 2018, a higher rate than average projected growth in other industries. Job growth for attendants, orderlies, and nursing aides is estimated to increase by 19 percent, quicker than average growth in other industries. Growth will be spurred by growing elderly populations and need for more assisted living assistance. Hospitals sending patients home early to cut costs will increase the need for more assisted living facilities. This will result in more jobs being available at nursing care and assisted living facilities than hospitals, and growth will be highest at community health centers where elderly people receive assistance. New technology will increase demand for nursing aides since it extends patients’ lives, thus increasing demand for long-term care.

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