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Nursing aides are indispensable professionals in the line of caregivers in the American healthcare system. Aides work in hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. Whether they're assisting nurses and physicians to monitor vital signs or helping to make patients comfortable, nursing aides provide the necessary link between patients and those administering treatment. They may help patients to dress, visit the restroom, get daily exercise, or eat meals.
Aides may help set up diagnostic or treatment equipment, straighten up clinic or hospital rooms, or help patients with their daily hygiene. In extended care facilities, nursing aides are the primary caregivers, often having the greatest amount of interaction with patients.
Nursing aides are, by nature, caring compassionate individuals with a commitment to ease the suffering of others. Their employers expect them to be responsible, dedicated, and punctual, as well as able to establish an easy rapport with patients and other medical staff. Tact, patience, and sound physical health are assets to nursing aide professionals. Candidates may be tested for communicable diseases and the use of illegal drugs.
The median annual wage for nursing aides in 2008 was $23,850, with top-tier salaries of $33,210. The higher paying nursing aide positions were offered through employment services agencies with the lower-end wages paid by long-term community care facilities for senior citizens.
Training and Education
Some states require nursing aides to pass a competency examination. It is not required for candidates to have direct experience in the field or hold a high school diploma to receive entry level positions as a nursing aide, however some healthcare facilities and long-term residential centers expect nursing aides to complete 75 hours of on-site training.
Aides may also be required to take ongoing training or pursue formal education at trade schools or community colleges. Helpful classes include vocational training in first aid, CPR, nutrition, infection control, patient rights and ethics, communication skills, and body mechanics.
The National Association for Home Care and Hospice offers voluntary certification examinations for nursing aides. For federal and state positions, those who successfully complete training and pass skills exams may become certified nurse assistants (CNAs).
Nursing aides, home health and psychiatric aides held 2.3 million jobs in 2006. Nursing aides held 1.2 million positions. More than 50 percent worked in residential care facilities and nursing homes while 29 percent held jobs at hospitals. Additional positions were in government agencies, psychiatric units, surgical facilities, and substance abuse treatment centers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for nursing aides during the 2006-2016 decade should grow 28 percent. Job openings are predicted to be highest in nursing and residential care facilities, rather than in clinics and hospitals. There is a growing demand for nursing aides with training or experience with the elderly population as well as with the increasing population of mentally ill adults living in residential care facilities.
Other openings should be with agencies that provide short-term or extended nursing aide services in private homes. With advancement in medical care and technology, Americans are living longer, thereby increasing the need for qualified home healthcare aides to assist the population.
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Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys, GoTo.com, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.