What Being a Nurse and Nurse Assistant is Really Like

Do you want to help people every day? Working as a nurse or a nurse assistant is a great way to do just that. You can get some major career satisfaction by helping to provide care and support to patients in a healthcare environment on a daily basis. What’s more, nursing and assistant nursing roles are some of the most popular healthcare occupations in Australia.

But what’s it really like to work in those roles? Read on to learn about the real-life duties of a nurse and nurse assistant.

What’s a nurse?

A nurse cares for anyone who’s sick or infirm, from babies to the elderly. They make sure every patient receives the best possible care regardless of who they are or where they are. They’re also indispensable in safeguarding public health, as they ensure the most accurate diagnoses and educate the public about critical health issues.

A nurse may work at a hospital, clinic, private practice, nursing home, residential care facility, school, or state prison. There are also various types of nurses, including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and nursing assistants. Nurses can work irregular hours like at night, on the weekends, and during holidays.

What are the duties of a nurse?

The degree of responsibility varies between the different types of nurses, but their duties are mostly similar.

When patients arrive, a nurse will assess them based on their physiological, economic, social, and lifestyle factors by conducting physical exams, asking questions, and checking a patient’s medical history. They’ll make a diagnosis based on a patient’s physical symptoms and behaviour. In some situations, nurses need to provide instant care for medical emergencies like strokes, heart attacks, burns, and car accidents.

Nurses are responsible for accurately implementing care and treatment plans, and documenting the patient’s progress by recording changes in their behaviour and conditions. They analyse the effectiveness of the plan and study the patient’s response, making adjustments where necessary to achieve the best outcome for the patient.

At the same time, nurses provide care and support to patients and their families, making sure they’re comfortable, well-fed, and hydrated. They also assist patients before and after procedures, checking their vitals like blood pressure or temperature, and looking for signs that their health is improving or deteriorating.

Nurses also advise patients on how to administer medication and physical therapy on their own, including educating patients and the public on medical conditions, disease management, and nutritional plans. They also develop quality assurance procedures, give vaccinations, run blood drives, establish nursing practice standards, implement research outcomes, maintain safe and hygienic work environments, and act as lines of communication between patients and doctors.

What’s a nurse assistant?

As previously mentioned, one particular type of nurse is a nurse assistant. This nurse provides help and support for other nurses that are generally for working with the elderly and disabled people who need long-term care.

Nurse assistants are beneficial as they help nurses get things done faster. This is because they act as a nurse’s eyes and ears by spending time with the patients and getting to know them in a way that nurses don’t really have time to. Nurse assistants might notice certain symptoms and then pass this information onto a nurse, which could actually end up saving the patient’s life. They can also help a nurse to diagnose a patient’s medical problem by taking and recording vital signs. A vital job of a nursing assistant is to help quickly set up exam rooms in between appointments by laying out the tools for procedures.

What does a nurse assistant do?

While working under the direction and supervision of a nurse, as a nurse assistant you’ll have to do the following tasks:

  • Help patients with their basic needs, such as bathing, grooming, dressing, eating, and socialising. You might also have to turn or reposition wheelchair or bed-ridden patients, as well as provide and empty bedpans for them.
  • Help with housework if assisting patients in their home, like changing their bedsheets and cleaning the bathroom and living areas to keep them comfortable.
  • Keep tabs on a patient’s health and pay attention to any changes, then pass on any important information to a nurse.
  • Take and record patients’ vital signs like blood pressure or temperature, and report any drastic changes to a nurse.
  • Help a nurse with some procedures, such as transporting patients to the operating room or treatment unit, setting up medical equipment, moving heavy medical devices to another room, laying out tools, or performing part of a procedure like taking the patient’s blood.
  • Work with medical technology, for example billing software, health information software, and medical record charting software.
  • Administer medication to patients.
  • Collect information about a patient’s condition and treatment plan from caregivers, nurses, and doctors.
  • Check if patients have bruises, blood in their urine, and other injuries or wounds.
  • Help clean a patient after an accident and dress their wounds.
  • Clean and sanitise a patient’s room, change the bed sheet, and restock the room with necessary supplies.

Start your journey as a nurse assistant today

If you’re interested in being a nurse, you can start your career by studying the Nursing Assistant Executive Diploma from the International Career Institute. The course equips you with the skills and knowledge you need to be able to care for people, handle tough situations, and motivate others to improve with every step. You can complete your studies in just one year and then kick-off your nursing career as a nurse assistant. Enrol today!

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Gladys Mae


Gladys Mae serves as the General Manager and Head of Student Services at the International Career Institute. Gladys holds a degree in Mass Communication - Broadcast Media from the University of San Jose-Recoletos. She joined ICI in 2010 and has over the past 12 years been instrumental in providing leadership and guidance to staff and students alike. Prior to joining ICI Gladys led a multifaceted career with key roles in the banking and business process outsourcing industries.