Nursing assistants exist in all areas of nursing and healthcare and can perform a wide range of tasks according to training and experience. If you know you want a career in healthcare, becoming a nursing assistant is a great place to start.
A job as a nursing assistant opens you to a world of career opportunities. Some people begin the role and realise they love the patient contact so much that they stay in the role their whole working life. Others use the role of a nursing assistant as a stepping stone to another career within health. There’s a range of opportunities available to those who are looking to progress and develop within their career.
Whether you are thinking long-term or short-term, the role of a nursing assistant is an important and rewarding one. You’ll provide and support patients of all ages to perform basic daily tasks, providing personalised care to help maintain patient comfort and dignity. You’ll work under a licenced nurse’s supervision and will keep doctors and nurses up to date on information about a patient’s condition, growing your experience in clinical practice.
By becoming a nursing assistant you can gain employment in residential care facilities, hospitals, group homes, home health care services, nursing homes or as a home carer.
The term ‘nursing assistant’ and ‘healthcare assistant’ can be used interchangeably and generally depends on the setting in which you are working. The role remains the same, but the term used is defined by the environment it is based in.
For staff employed in hospitals, GP surgeries and NHS Trusts, the term ‘healthcare assistant’ is often used. In a social care environment such as a care home or a person’s own home, you’ll likely be referred to as a nursing assistant or care assistant.
No matter the setting or the title you are given, the primary skill you’ll need to bring to the table is communication. How you speak to and listen to those in your care is at the very core of the job. Other skills you will need include empathy, dedication, friendliness, attentiveness, calmness under pressure, patience and reliability. It also helps if you can be open minded and have a desire to learn. Treating every day as a learning experience can improve your knowledge and skills as a nursing assistant.
What to expect
Being a nursing or healthcare assistant can be challenging and tough on your feet. Shift work can be long and tending to a patient when you’re tired can be tough. You’ll need to learn to be patient and flexible and friendly at all times – ensuring your patients feel safe and well cared for.
The good news is that there’s a lot of joy that can come from improving the way a vulnerable person experiences each day. Your kindness and competence can help to keep a smile on their face and can keep them feeling as comfortable as possible. Tasks might not always be glamourous, but the activities you perform each day will be vital for the successful operation of the facility in which you are working. Your main role will be to act as the bridge between patients, doctors and nurses but you will also be responsible for:
Administering medication to patients
Monitoring vital signs
Responding to patient calls and requests
Recording information about a patient’s condition
Bathing and cleaning patients
Serving meals to patients
Repositioning patients to increase their comfort
Sanitising patient rooms
Changing bed sheets
Becoming a nursing assistant
To become a nursing or healthcare assistant there are no set entry requirements. Employers do, however, expect you to have some experience of healthcare or care work or a formal accreditation that ensures you have theoretical knowledge of the job role. Ideally, you will look for an accredited course that covers health and wellness, rehabilitation nursing, community nursing and support services, medical terminology, patient record maintenance, workplace safety and privacy in a medical environment.
With the right qualification behind you, you can fast-track your career in nursing and patient care assisting, developing skills in months instead of years. Entry level positions start at around £17,738, with salary increasing to £27,300 over time. Work your way up to a program manager or health manager and you could be looking at a salary more around the £40,000 mark.
If you’re keen to start your health care career journey, enrol in our next Executive Diploma in Nursing and Patient Care Assisting. This course takes a hands-on approach to learning and the qualification recognises your capacity for initiative and judgment across a broad range of technical and management functions. Start reaping the benefits of ICI today and before you know it you could be providing compassionate care for those who are not able to fully care for themselves.
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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.