Nursing Assistant Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: June 22, 2022

A Nursing Assistant, or a Nursing Aide, provides healthcare and support to patients in a medical facility. Their main duties include offering basic physical assistance to patients, feeding patients according to their dietary needs and recording vital signs.


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Nursing Assistant duties and responsibilities

A Nursing Assistant has several duties and responsibilities that they learn through studies and experience. Since their job is to provide basic care for daily living of patients, their work consists of the following:

  • Help patients use the bathroom
  • Clean and bathe patients or residents
  • Maintain patients’ hygiene and change bedding
  • Turn, reposition and move patients between wheelchairs, seats and beds
  • Serve meals and help patients eat their food
  • Measure vital signs like blood pressure and temperature
  • Listen to patients regarding any health concerns they might have and report details to a Registered Nurse or Doctor


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What does a Nursing Assistant do?

Nursing Assistants work in medical care facilities or in hospice environments to help Nurses in providing care to patients. They often help patients with basic daily activities, like dressing, bathing, standing or exercising. Nursing Assistants will typically work with Nurses and Physicians to determine a patient’s health issues and receive and follow a treatment plan to help the patients return to stable health. 

They’re also responsible for taking note of the patient’s progress and recording their food and liquid intakes for the nursing staff to review. A Nurse evaluates these results and instructs the Nursing Assistant to follow their adjusted treatment plan for the patient.


Nursing Assistant skills and qualifications

There are certain skills and qualifications that are important to be a Nursing Assistant, including:

  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Great written and verbal communication
  • Ability to carefully read and follow directions
  • Flexibility in work duties and schedule
  • Good teamwork skills
  • Ability to lift and move patients
  • Good foundation of clinical skills and knowledge


Nursing Assistant salary expectations

A Nursing Assistant makes an average of $14.02 per hour with an additional $4,500 per year in overtime pay. Pay rate may depend on level of experience, education and the geographical location.


Nursing Assistant education and training requirements

Nursing Assistants need to complete an accredited training program and pass a state-issued exam. In order to qualify for a training program, they need a high school diploma or GED. Programs can take one to four months to complete and involve classroom instruction and practical experience. Certified Nursing Assistants should be listed on the CNA registry. 


Nursing Assistant experience requirements

Since being a Nursing Assistant is usually an entry-level job, they little to no prior experience. Graduates from certified nursing programs complete in-person training, so they have some experience. Some employers may prefer Nursing Assistants with at least one year of experience, especially if they need to work with special types of patients who need extra care. In most cases, Nursing Assistants receive on-the-job training from Licensed Practical Nurses and Registered Nurses until they feel comfortable enough to perform their responsibilities with little supervision.


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Frequently asked questions about Nursing Assistants


Who does a Nursing Assistant report to?

Nursing Assistants typically report to Nurses on their medical care team. They usually work closely with Nurses to complete more basic care tasks, while the Nurses complete more complex work items. Nurses usually review and analyze a Nursing Assistant’s performance and provide them with advice and guidance on how to improve the care they provide patients. 

Some Nursing Assistants are assigned one Nurse to work closely with each day, while others may assist several different Nurses at a time during each shift. 


What are the different types of Nursing Assistants?

Nursing Assistants can work in a wide variety of settings, specializing in certain types of healthcare. Some of them may work as clinical Nursing Assistants, where they operate in a clinic or private practice, offering assistance and support to Nurses and Physicians. If they’d rather work in a more fast-paced environment, Nursing Assistants may work in a hospital, where they must respond to more emergency-level and high-pressure situations when handling patients and their health. 

Other Nursing Assistants will work in hospice care, traveling to the patients’ home and helping them complete basic physical tasks. There are also Nursing Assistants who work in nursing or residential care facilities assisting the elderly in bathing, cleaning or other caregiver tasks. 


What's the difference between a Nursing Assistant and a Medical Assistant?

Though they share many similar tasks, there are some key differences between a Nursing and Medical Assistant. A Nursing Assistant works closely with patients, usually long-term, to complete basic activities like bathing, getting out of bed and using the restroom. 

Medical Assistants often work on clerical tasks, like checking patients in for appointments, showing them to their rooms and tracking patients’ health records. These employees typically only spend a temporary amount of time with the patient during their appointment or brief stay at the hospital. Nursing Assistants usually work with the same patients each day and build a lasting relationship with them. 


What makes a good Nursing Assistant?

A great Nursing Assistant must have strong interpersonal skills to emphasize and care for the patient and their health. An effective attention to detail is also important to notice if a patient is exhibiting abnormal symptoms or experiencing underlying health issues. They must also react and think logically when put in high-pressure situations, like if a patient needs emergency medical attention. Impressive Nursing Assistants must also have great time management skills to tackle all of their many tasks at once.

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