The National Network of Career Nursing Assistants marks the 42nd year of celebrating National Nursing Assistant Week from June 13-20. As lifelong caregivers, nursing assistants are a vital cog in the wheel of complete and attentive nursing care. They provide the hands-on, routine care for many patients, particularly those in long-term care facilities.

As part of the nursing team, nursing assistants often rely on their experience and the expertise of their colleagues to help patients in the ways that work best for them. Based on their long-term knowledge and interaction with patients, they are able to discern the slight nuances in providing one-on-one care to each patient.

Nursing assistants learn how different patients can be moved most comfortably and what foods can be digested most easily, for instance. They understand the emotional triggers for patients and the topics or situations that bring calm or comfort. They understand how to encourage patients in the ways they will respond to best. All of this important information is passed on to the entire medical team to help put together the best care plan.

In addition to the hands-on care, nursing assistants often provide essential and cherished companionship for patients. Because they interact with them so frequently, they become an important social aspect in the day-to-day care activities. They listen for vital clues to how a patient is feeling and can provide reassurance for typical issues or raise the alarm when something seems off or unusual. It’s often those smaller changes that can be a tip-off for a larger problem brewing.

With such frequent check-ins, nursing assistants advocate for their patients and have an important voice on the the care team. Nursing assistants who are in the same facility for a long time or who are career nursing assistant are also a source of stability for patients in times when everything else can be changing. A familiar face is welcome and reassuring.

As the national population continues to see the Baby Boomer population age and also live longer, the need for nursing assistants is growing. According to the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants, another 700,000 jobs will need to be filled to meet the demand over the next 25 years. And nursing assistants can work in a variety of settings, from nursing homes to emergency departments to hospice care.

National Nursing Assistants Week is an excellent time to recognize the role nursing assistants play in your care team’s work. From physicians to patients, they fill a critical need.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

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