Become a Nurse Aide 

Nurse Aide Careers

One of the most significant and far-reaching takeaways of health care reform in the past half-decade is the increased focus on patient-facing skills and competencies. The growing number of people who now have access to medical care thanks to President Obama's health care law means that clinics, hospitals and care facilities are experiencing greater strain on medical personnel because of the increased demand. 

While doctors and nurse practitioners receive essential education on the most up-to-date medical practices, clinicians' skill sets tend to be strictly clinical, either diagnosing conditions, prescribing treatments and interpreting results to fine-tune individual patient plans. However, these professions often lack the personable touch that many patients need, especially in instances where an individual is navigating a new and frightening medical situation. 

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Nursing aides play an important role in the changing health care system, as they are instrumental in bridging the gap between patient and practitioners. They provide a valuable and often hands-on resource for individuals who need assistance not necessarily with the big-picture strategy of their overall treatment, but in managing day-to-day tasks that may prove challenging to some.

Are Online Nursing Aide Programs For You?

Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing an online nursing aide program.

The educational requirements for nursing aides are lower than those associated with doctors, nurse practitioners or registered nurses. Unlike these jobs, nursing aide positions typically do not mandate an extensive education in medicine or science, as job duties are more centered on working with patients directly to help with daily tasks such as washing and dressing than with planning and executing treatment.

As such, many nursing aide careers provide on-the-job training, requiring candidates to have a high school diploma or GED. Because of the nature of the interactions that nursing aides regularly encounter, emphasis is placed on a different skill set than would be needed by other nursing professions. In particular, communication skills are especially valuable. The vast majority of a nursing aide's job will involve communicating with patients on some level, so these skills are essential. It is also a good idea to consider studying a foreign language such as Spanish, French or German to better meet the needs of a rapidly diversifying patient base.

In addition to meeting the educational requirements, most states require nursing aides to be licensed before they can practice.

Nursing Aide Possible Career Paths and Salaries

The diverse and wide-reaching nature of the medical profession means that, like doctors and nurses, nursing aides have a variety of settings in which they can practice. While many work in hard clinical settings such as hospitals, nursing aides can also be of great value in long-term care facilities and residential nursing homes.

Nursing Assistant[i]

These professionals provide a basic level of care for those in residential clinical facilities. Job duties often include assisting patients with basic tasks such as bathing, dressing and eating. This job tends to be more physical in nature than other nursing jobs, often requiring candidates to lift and move patients.

  • See the BLS for median annual salary information
  • Job growth through 2022: 21 percent (faster than average)
  • Entry-level education: High school diploma

Personal Care Aide[ii]

Like nursing assistants, personal care aides work closely with patients, often on a one-on-one basis. The key difference is that personal aides tend to work more frequently in nonclinical settings such as at a patient's home. In addition to assisting with basic tasks, some personal care aides also provide their clients with companionship, fulfilling a social role as well as a clinical one.

  • See the BLS for median annual salary information
  • Job growth through 2022: 49 percent (much faster than average)
  • Entry-level education: High school diploma