On the Job
Nursing assistants give personal care to patients in hospitals and nursing homes. They work under the direction of nurses and doctors.
For many patients, nursing assistants are the people they see most often on a daily basis. By helping patients with activities of daily living, nursing assistants help them achieve a good quality of life. In many cases, especially in nursing homes, patients might become attached to those who help take care of them.Nursing assistants check with the supervising nurse for instructions about each patient. They often read chart notes at the beginning of their shift to get updates on patients. They greet patients and see how they are doing. Nursing assistants answer call bells and help patients with bedpans or other needs. They deliver messages, flowers, and gifts. When family members are visiting, nursing assistants may talk to them while cleaning or working in the room. They may explain some medical instructions to patients and family members.
Nursing assistants prepare food trays and deliver meals. They keep records of the amount of food eaten and liquid output. They often give medicines to patients as directed by the supervising nurse or doctor. They help patients with eating, dressing, bathing, exercising, and walking. Nursing assistants clean rooms and change beds. When patients must stay in bed, nursing assistants give them bed baths and change the bed linens afterward. They help patients clean their teeth and wash and brush their hair. They help patients turn over in bed. They give lotion or alcohol rubs to help keep skin healthy and provide comfort.
Nursing assistants set up and monitor equipment. They record vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature, pulse, and respiration. They may collect samples of bodily fluids. They move patients in wheelchairs or beds to examining or operating rooms. Nursing assistants sterilize equipment and supplies. They prepare and stock dressings and treatment trays.
Nursing assistants watch patients for change in mental alertness or emotions. When they see changes, they notify the supervising nurse. Most nursing assistants try to encourage patients who feel sad or lonely. Nursing assistants relieve fear and discomfort by bringing good cheer and kindness to patients. Some nursing assistants also do clerical duties, such as filing and making appointments. When leaving work, nursing assistants may give patient information to the supervisor or the nursing assistant who is coming on duty.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Answer call bells and greet patients.
- Help patients with walking, bathing, dressing, and eating. Also help them with exercising and using the bathroom.
- Prepare food trays and serve meals.
- Check temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration of patients.
- Turn patients who cannot turn over in bed.
- Give medicines as directed by supervising nurse or physician.
- Set up and monitor equipment.
- Keep records of food intake, liquid output, and vital signs. May collect samples of bodily fluids.
- Clean rooms and change beds.
- Give lotion and alcohol rubs.
- Meet with nursing staff and read chart notes.
- Observe and report changes in patients' emotions or alertness.
- Speak with family members and other visitors.
- Move patients by wheelchair or gurney.
- Sterilize equipment and supplies.
- Deliver messages, gifts, and flowers.
- Stock supplies, such as dressings and treatment trays.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Assist and care for others.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Document and record information.
- Perform activities that use the whole body.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Handle and move objects.
- Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Process information.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Teach others.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Develop and build teams.
- Coordinate the work and activities of others.
- Think creatively.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a high level of social interaction with patients, visitors, nurses, and other staff members.
- Speak to others in person on a daily basis. They also communicate by telephone, but less frequently.
- Are responsible for the health and safety of patients.
- Sometimes are placed in conflict situations in which patients and family members may be upset or angry.
- Are somewhat responsible for the work done by other assistants.
- Nearly always work as part of a team.
- Sometimes must handle patients who are physically aggressive or violent.
- Always wear uniforms.
- Always work indoors.
- Work very near others. They come in physical contact with patients throughout their shift.
- Are often exposed to contaminants.
- Often are exposed to diseases or infections from contact with patients.
- Sometimes wear safety gear, such as latex gloves, face masks, and back support.
- Are on occasion exposed to noises and sound levels that are distracting. Medical equipment can sometimes be loud.
- May have to get into awkward positions to reach cramped work spaces.
- Must be exact in their work. Errors could seriously endanger patients' health.
- Often make decisions that affect patients and other assistants. They make some decisions without talking to a supervisor, but usually consult someone first.
- Set some of their daily tasks and goals without talking to a supervisor first.
- Abide by daily and weekly deadlines.
- Sometimes must repeat the same activities.
- May work days, nights, weekends, and holidays.
- May work full time or part time. Most work full time.
- Generally work a set schedule.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Stand, walk, and run while caring for patients.
- Bend or twist the body.
- Use their hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Kneel, stoop, crouch, or crawl.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Be physically active for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Use fingers or hands to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- See details of objects that are more than a few feet away.
- Use muscles for extended periods without getting tired.
- Use muscles to jump, sprint, or throw objects.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Keep or regain the body's balance or stay upright when in an unstable position.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.