How to Become a Nurse's Aide in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a nurse's aide. Learn about job duties, education requirements, certification requirements and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

As a nurse's aide or nursing assistant, you'll provide hands-on patient care, observe patient health conditions and assist patients with bathing and other tasks. The following chart gives you an overview about becoming a nurse's aide

Degree Required Postsecondary diploma
Education Field of Study Nursing assistant or nurse's aide
Key Responsibilities Assist patients with bathing and using the bathroom; serve patient meals; assist patients with transferring in and out of bed and walking; monitor patient status and report changes to nurse
Certification Certification may be required in some states and for some jobs; other employers may prefer it
Job Growth (2012-2022) 21%*
Median Salary (2013) $24,890*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Nurse's Aide?

As a nurse's aid, you will help make patients more comfortable. You may help patients eat, drink, dress and bathe, as well as monitor their vital signs. You could also help with other duties in the rooms, such as changing bed sheets and emptying bed pans. Depending on where you work, you may be required to collect patient samples, such as urine or saliva to use in laboratory tests.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

In most cases, a high school diploma or its equivalent is required for aide positions. If you're planning a career in this field, you should focus on courses in science, health and nutrition. Some high schools offer programs for nurse's aides or have work programs offering hospital experience for part of the day.

Step 2: Attend a Training Program

You may need to attend a formal training program for nurse's aides, which is a federal certification requirement for those planning on working in nursing care facilities. Vocational schools and community colleges offer nurse's aide training programs where you can study medical fundamentals and learn how to help patients with personal care tasks. Some employers offer training programs for new employees, while others may offer on-the-job training by experienced staff.

Step 3: Become Certified

Regulations for nurse's aides vary by state, but the federal government requires all nurse's aides who work in nursing care facilities to be certified. The Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) credential typically requires successful completion of a state-approved training program and passage of a skills assessment examination.

Step 4: Find a Job

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the employment of nursing aides, orderlies and attendants would increase by 21% between 2012 and 2022, which is faster than average growth for all other occupations (www.bls.gov). This increase would be due in part to an overall increase in the number of elderly in the general population. As a trained, certified nurse's aide, you can find work in hospitals, nursing care facilities, community care facilities or other healthcare institutions or agencies.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Although advancement in the CNA field can be rare, there are a few advanced certified nurse's aide education programs that provide advanced training in areas such as medical procedures, phlebotomy, medical terminology and electrocardiography. Other CNAs advance within the medical field by seeking additional training in areas such as nursing or medical assistance.

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