How to Become a Nursing Assistant

Training and Education Jobs and Salaries

In many cases, a high school diploma or equivalent is necessary for a job as a nursing or psychiatric aide however, a high school diploma generally is not required for jobs as home health aides. Specific qualifications vary by occupation, State laws, and work setting and advancement opportunities for nursing assistants are limited. Nursing and psychiatric aide training is offered in high schools, vocational - technical centers, some nursing care facilities, and some community colleges. Courses cover body mechanics, nutrition, anatomy and physiology, infection control, communication skills, and resident rights. Personal care skills, such as how to help patients to bathe, eat, and groom themselves, also are taught.

Hospitals may require previous experience as a nursing aide or home health aide. Some States also require psychiatric aides to complete a formal training program however, most psychiatric aides learn their skills on the job from experienced workers. Home health aides are generally not required to have a high school diploma. They usually are trained on the job by registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, or experienced aides. Also, clients may prefer that tasks are done a certain way, and make those suggestions to the home health aide.

A competency evaluation may be required to ensure the aide can perform the required tasks. Some employers provide classroom instruction for newly hired aides, while others rely exclusively on informal on-the-job instruction by a licensed nurse or an experienced aide. Such training may last from several days to a few months. Aides also may attend lectures, workshops, and in-service training.

The Federal Government has guidelines for home health aides whose employers receive reimbursement from Medicare. Federal law requires home health aides to pass a competency test covering a wide range of areas. A home health aide may receive training before taking the competency test. In addition, the National Association for Home Care and Hospice offers voluntary certification for home health aides.

Some States also require aides to be licensed. Similar Federal requirements exist for nurse aides who work in nursing care facilities. These aides must complete a minimum of 75 hours of state-approved training and pass a competency evaluation. Aides who complete the program are known as certified nurse assistants (CNA) and are placed on the State registry of nurse aides.

Aides must be in good health. A physical examination, including State-regulated tests such as those for tuberculosis, may be required. A criminal background check also is usually required for employment. Applicants should be tactful, patient, understanding, emotionally stable, and dependable and should have a desire to help people. They also should be able to work as part of a team, have good communication skills, and be willing to perform repetitive, routine tasks. Home health aides should be honest and discreet because they work in private homes. They also will need access to a car or public transportation to reach patient homes.

Opportunities for advancement within these occupations are limited. Aides generally need additional formal training or education to enter other health occupations. The most common health care occupations for former aides are licensed practical nurse, registered nurse, and medical assistant. For some individuals, these occupations serve as entry-level jobs. For example, some high school and college students gain experience working in these occupations while attending school. In addition, experience as an aide can help individuals decide whether to pursue a career in health care.