How to Become a Geriatric Nursing Assistant in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a geriatric nursing assistant. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Adult Health Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Geriatric Nursing Assistant Do?

A geriatric nursing assistant provides hands-on care for the elderly population, assisting with daily needs such as bathing and feeding. As a primary caretaker for these people, it will be your responsibility to communicate their concerns about their health and well-being to proper health care professionals if need be. You will need to monitor their vitals and physical condition on a regular basis. Depending on your qualifications and the state you work in, you may be in charge of dispensing medication, as well. The following chart gives you an overview about a career as a geriatric nursing assistant.

Education Required Accredited nursing assistant certificate or training program
Education Field of Study Nursing assistant or geriatric aide
Key Responsibilities Assist patients with bathing, dressing and using the bathroom; reposition patients who are not ambulatory; assist patients with transferring in and out of bed and with walking; serve meals and assist with eating
Licensure All states require nursing assistants to be registered with the state
Job Growth (2014-2024) 18% (for all nursing assistants)*
Median Salary (2015) $25,710 (for all nursing assistants)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Geriatric Nursing Assistant?

Most geriatric nursing assistants work in nursing homes or long-term care facilities under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) and other health care professionals. They assist patients with their daily care and hygiene, meals, and other routine tasks. Some employers require geriatric nursing assistants to earn a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) designation.

Step 1: Find Out Required Education and Career Duties

Geriatric nursing assistants work with elderly patients who may have lost their ability to care for themselves. You could help patients with bathing, eating, and dressing. You might also assist with keeping patients mobile, preparing, and serving meals or helping out during medical procedures. You might need to monitor patients' vital signs, including checking temperatures and blood pressure.

The type of education you'll need depends on the state and type of facility where you plan to work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), if you want to work at a nursing facility, you'll need to complete an accredited CNA program and fulfill all state requirements to obtain certification (www.bls.gov). Some hospitals and health care facilities could also require you to be a CNA, so you should check with prospective employers to verify necessary academic and certification requirements.

Step 2: Participate in a High School Program

Many high schools offer health career clubs that you can join as a student. Membership typically involves volunteering at a local hospital or health care facility. Some high schools offer basic health care courses and training to earn CPR certification.

If you can't find a health career club, you could check with your guidance counselor to determine if your high school participates in a student vocational program. Organizations, such as the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), work with many high schools to offer health care and leadership training (www.hosa.org).

Step 3: Complete a Training Program

You could participate in an academic nursing assistant or geriatric aide training program through a college or vocational school. These are typically short-term certificate programs that require less than a year of study. Courses common to these programs include human anatomy, nutrition, and physiology. Completing these courses can help you prepare for certification exams.

You could also receive on-the-job training at a hospital or long-term care facility. In these settings, you'd train under the supervision of RNs and geriatric nursing assistants. On-the-job training programs usually include classes that cover topics in communication skills, personal care, and patients' rights.

Step 4: Get Certified

To become a CNA, you'll need to pass a competency exam and complete at least 75 hours of training from a state-approved program. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) offers a list of state-approved training programs (www.ncsbn.org). In some states, you may be able to earn additional certification as a Certified Medication Assistant in order to administer medications to patients.

Step 5: Find a Geriatric Nursing Assistant Job

In 2015, the BLS reported that job growth for nursing aides was expected to increase 18% from 2014-2024. This job growth was anticipated due to a significant increase in the elderly population during that time. The career services department where you received your training might help you find employment. Establishments you could work for include adult day care centers, long-term care facilities, private homes, and hospitals.

What Are Some Similar Careers?

Home health aides assist adults living with some form of disability or illness who have trouble caring for themselves, and they may be allowed to administer medicine or check vitals with direction from a health care professional. Personal care aides help people with everyday tasks and self-care, supporting them socially and emotionally to help them work and interact with others. Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPN/LVNs) work in hospitals, providing basic care to patients under the guidance of doctors and registered nurses, as well as performing various administrative duties.

Aides require training to enter their fields, and most also have a high school diploma. A certificate or diploma program is required to become an LPN or LVN. Home health aides typically need certification, though personal care aides do not; LPNs and LVNS must earn a license.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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