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.
For 41 years, nursing assistants have celebrated National Nursing Assistants Week during June. Career Nursing Assistants Day on June 14 kicks off the week of honoring the nursing assistants who care for elderly or disabled patients, especially in long-term care facilities, hospice care, home care, or nursing homes.
According to the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants, nursing assistants are a vital connection to patients as they help them with the basic care and activities of daily living. They help patients feel cared for and comfortable, while also providing the essential hands-on care that keeps patients healthy. While helping patients do things like bathe, eat, or gain movement, they are also able to form trusting relationships. Nursing assistants spend so much time with patients they are able to get to know them and learn about their lives.
When patients are away from the comforts of their home or far away from family and friends, nursing assistant s give a companionship so necessary for feeling better. They provide a gentle care from which patients and residents feel respect and a sense of belonging. When nursing assistants greet them by name and ask about their health or their physical ailments, they are taking an assessment of how the patient is doing on a basic physical level. Those are assessments that are essential to the medical team that oversees the patient.
But because of their close proximity to people, nursing assistants are also able to ask about the favorite foods of patients or residents, their upbringing, how they celebrated milestones, and family and friends who were once or are still close to them. They may get to know the visitors who come often and are able to hear and share stories with them. With that kind of knowledge, nursing assistants have many topics of conversation they can use to engage patients. Their familiar presence becomes reassuring and comforting as a patient’s moods may go up or down or as their physical discomfort increases or decreases.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for this role will continue to rise at a faster-than-average rate. Those looking to get into this career field will find plenty of opportunity to offer compassionate and skilled care to populations that needs it most. The median salary of $27,500 annually will fluctuate with location and demand, and you’ll need to pass a competency exam. Like other jobs in the medical or care field, the work can by both physically and emotionally demanding, but the rewards of caring for patients and making a difference in their lives is great.
Help celebrate National Nursing Assistants Week by noting and thanking nursing assistants for the tremendous work they do.
See Our Champions of Nursing Diversity
Sign up now to get your free digital subscription to Minority Nurse