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Launch Your Career in Caring

Nursing assistants are a critical link in the health care chain. You can be the face that brightens a patient’s day, a helping hand for basic tasks, and, for some patients, the key to maintaining dignity.

Nursing assistants, also called nurse aides, typically have the most direct contact with patients. This means you may often be the first one to notice changes in health, mood, or mobility. As a nursing assistant, you may work in a hospital or long-term care facility helping patients perform everyday tasks like eating, bathing, or just getting out of bed. You may tidy up rooms or check blood pressure. With specialized training, you can handle medication, set up equipment, or assist in certain medical procedures.

A Window to the World
One of the most satisfying parts of the job can be the relationship you forge with your patients. For them, you can be a link to the outside world–serving up a dose of news and good cheer along with dinner. According to recent study by the Department of Health and Human Services, this relationship is cited as “having the greatest impact on (the patient’s) quality of life.”

Getting Started

To become a nursing assistant, you should have at least high school diploma or its equivalent to start. You can then receive additional training in one of the following ways:

��� Hospitals and nursing care facilities. Many healthcare facilities offer programs at low or no cost–some even pay you to learn. Buyers beware, though; you may be obligated to work for that facility once your training is complete.
��� Local Red Cross chapters. Some Red Cross chapters offer day and evening training programs that run 4 to 8 weeks, with real practice in a hospital setting.
��� Community and junior colleges. Maybe the most time-consuming and expensive option, but community and junior colleges have programs that can qualify you for higher-paying or more specialized jobs, particularly certified nurse assistant (CNA) programs.
��� Online courses. Online courses can be a great way to strengthen your skills if you are already working or enrolled in an on-site program.

The Perks
While you won’t earn a six-figure salary as a nursing assistant, you may find the potential for flexible hours and part time work an attractive trade-off. Furthermore, this entry-level job is a great way to test the healthcare waters. You can get practical experience and, perhaps, discover that you want to become a nurse or physician’s assistant. And with the country facing a critical shortage of nursing assistants, you could turn your education and training into a stable, up-and-coming career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job opportunities for nursing assistants to increase by 28 percent through 2016.


Publish date: July 10, 2008