Nursing Assistant Career Overview

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Course Description

Becoming a Nursing Assistant is one way to have a career in the healthcare field without spending tens of thousands of dollars and years of your life on a college education.  In this course, you'll learn exactly what a Nursing Assistant is and the duties of a typical day. 


You'll also learn the procedures, knowledge and training that are essential to being a successful nursing assistant.  Chapters will include information on basic anatomy, crucial testing procedures, the most common ailments a nursing assistant will see in her patients, personal care needs, and proper guidelines for patient mobility.  We will also cover topics such as patients' emotional needs, your own emotional health when working with patients who are suffering and legal and ethical issues you may face during your career.


Each chapter will end with a brief review in the form of questions about what you've learned.  These will help you understand each chapter more fully and prepare yourself for the certification exam required by most health care organizations for employment.  You can refer back to this material as a refresher whenever you feel the need to brush up on particular topics -- keep it as a reference guide after taking your certification exam.


A nursing assistant fulfills a complex role in the life of patients.  She is a caregiver who provides compassion, emotional support, physical mobility and day-to-day dignity in addition to basic medical needs.  If you have chosen to become a nursing assistant, you are a special individual.

A Day in the Life
Perhaps the best way to understand exactly what being a nursing assistant is like is to spend a day with one. Although every day is different for any nursing assistant, the basic skills and duties will remain the same. Let's follow Anne through her day at the nursing home where she's been a nursing assistant for three years.
  • Anne clocks in and reports to the head of her nursing team. Together, they review the day's duty roster and touch base about any concerns either of them have about patients. Anne will learn if any of her patients are being discharged and if any new patients will be moving into the facility.
  • Discharge duties will be handled at the assigned time, including preparing paperwork and getting all signatures necessary, helping the patient gather up personal belongings and if necessary, arranging for transportation. 
  • Throughout the day, Anne will make the rounds of her patients. In a nursing home, patient mobility will vary. Anne is usually in charge of eight patients every day. Duties for each patient will include:
    • Recording blood pressure, temperature and pulse at specified times throughout the day.
    • Making sure each patient has taken any prescribed medications.
    • Changing bed linens.
    • Assisting with patients' personal hygiene, including sponge bathing bedridden patients, assisting with combing hair, make-up application and brushing teeth.
    • Coordinating physical therapy and counseling for each patient as directed by the nurse or doctor in charge.
    • Delivering meal trays to all of her patients and feeding the patients who require assistance.
    • Making sure her patients have fresh ice water at all times.
    • Answering any call lights from patients on her duty roster.
    • Administering bedpans and urinals when needed.
    • Keeping track of and charting catheters.
  • Today, when Anne is in Jim's room she notices that he has lost bladder control. This hasn't happened before, and she is concerned. She assists him to his wheelchair, changes his bed linens, sponge bathes him and notes on his chart what has happened. She alerts the duty nurse to the situation. During all of this, she reassures Jim, who is upset and embarrassed. Anne stays with him for an extra few and chats about his grandchildren in the hope that this will cheer him up. She makes a note to talk to the nurse again at the end of her shift. She will also check in on Jim throughout the day.
  • When Anne is in Mary's room they talk about Mary's big day. Her family is coming to visit for her birthday. Anne helps her choose an outfit, fix her hair and put on some makeup.
  • Anne visits Ray, a patient who has been ill recently and will be moving to a nearby hospital soon for acute care. Since Ray is bedridden, Anne has to make sure he doesn't receive bed sores and so every two hours she turns him and adjusts the bedding. She also moves his limbs and massages his arms and legs to help with circulation and prevent the development of bed sores.
  • Another patient is being discharged so Ann prepares the required discharge papers and goes over them with the patient's family. This entire process take about one hour to complete. 
  • At the end of her shift, Anne reviews every patient's chart with her superior before leaving for the day.

On any given day, Anne might also empty catheters, change wound dressings, assist with post-mortem care, escort/transport patients to facility activities and appointments, assist patients who are having eating difficulties and orient new residents and their families to the facility's routines.


Training and Qualifications

The outline of the day's activities for a nursing assistant sounds busy, doesn't it? Most days as a nursing assistant will be very busy and you may be called upon to make life and death decisions. This is why being a nursing assistant requires proper training and why most hospitals and health care facilities have specific qualifications for their nursing assistants.

Every state requires that nursing assistants  be certified in order to work in a health care facility. To receive certification you need to be a high school graduate or have a GED and pass an exam given by the state in which you reside. The exam is based on the medical and health care training you receive by taking a course such as this or attending a course (usually taught by a nurse) at a health care facility or local college. These courses will include classroom work as well as clinical procedures taught as lab tutorials. The most important training you will receive, however, will be the hands-on experience you get when you accept your first job.

Professional Attitude & Compassion

Some of the most important aspects of being a nursing assistant cannot be learned by reading about them or studying them. These aspect aren't techniques or knowledge, but rather personality characteristics such as professionalism and compassion.

A nursing assistant must always maintain a professional attitude and remain calm and efficient even in stressful situations. Each patient's health and well-being relies on you performing your duties properly. A professional will take the time to record all information carefully and double-checks her records every time. She will not rush or cut corners in order get her work done early. She will also leave her personal concerns at home so that she can focus entirely on her patients at all times.

Compassion is the other trait that simply can't be learned -- it is the ability to understand and sympathize with your patients even when they are being difficult or demanding. A compassionate nursing assistant remembers that the extremely elderly may routinely become quarrelsome and easily agitated and require extra patience. She will also understand that if a patient lashes out at her or is verbally abusive, it is not a personal attack but is probably the result of pain or illness.

If you are compassionate and can maintain a professional attitude when working, you can become the nursing assistant that every facility desires -- the one who takes wonderful care of her patients' physical and emotional needs.

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Universal Class is an IACET Accredited Provider

Course Lessons

Lesson 1: What is a Nursing Assistant?

This lesson explains what the training requirements and qualifications are to become a nursing assistant, and what duties to expect while on the job. 45 Total Points
  • Review 2 Articles: Recommended Course: Anatomy and Physiology 101; Recommended Course: Medical Terminology 101
  • Take Survey: Reasons for Taking this Course
  • Complete: Assignment 1A: Introductions
  • Complete: Assignment 1B: The Duties of a Nursing Assistant
  • Complete: Lesson 1 Exam

Lesson 2: Vital Signs and Body Measurements

In this lesson, you will learn how to measure height and weight and check vital signs. 19 Total Points
  • Review Article: Blood Pressure
  • Complete: Lesson 2 Exam

Lesson 3: Basic Health Knowledge

This lesson describes the body's major organ systems and their functions. 69 Total Points
  • Complete: Assignment 3: Real Life Applications
  • Complete: Lesson 3 Exam

Lesson 4: Common Symptoms the Nursing Assistant Faces

This lesson addresses some of the more common symptoms that a nursing assistant may encounter. 20 Total Points
  • Complete: Lesson 4 Exam

Lesson 5: Patients' Daily Needs and Understanding Your Patients

The importance of upholding patient's rights and understanding the measures of comfort you can provide. 42 Total Points
  • Complete: Assignment 5: Meeting Patient Needs
  • Complete: Lesson 5 Exam

Lesson 6: Patient Mobility & Safety

This lesson discusses the different methods that can be used to move your patients, the procedures for transferring and discharge and describes proper bed-making technique. 19 Total Points
  • Review Article: Falls in nursing homes
  • Complete: Lesson 6 Exam

Lesson 7: Patient Nutrition and Exercise

This lesson addresses different types of diets and the importance of exercising. 45 Total Points
  • Complete: Assignment 7: Keeping Patients Active
  • Complete: Lesson 7 Exam

Lesson 8: Activities of Daily Living (ADL)

Taking care of the comfort, safety, and dignity of each patient. 19 Total Points
  • Complete: Lesson 8 Exam

Lesson 9: Special Care Procedures

This lesson describes the procedures used in response to various injuries and emergencies. 45 Total Points
  • Complete: Assignment 9: Obtaining CPR Certification
  • Complete: Lesson 9 Exam

Lesson 10: Special Needs Patients

This lesson deals the special needs of acutely ill patients and pediatric care. 20 Total Points
  • Complete: Lesson 10 Exam

Lesson 11: Legal & Ethical Issues

The legal aspects of the nursing assistant field, and the types of abuses to look for when assessing patients. 42 Total Points
  • Review Article: Identifying Patient Abuse
  • Complete: Assignment 11: Preventing Abuse
  • Complete: Lesson 11 Exam

Lesson 12: Career Options for the Nursing Assistant

This lesson discusses the variety of work choices and facilities in the nursing assistant field. 12 Total Points
  • Complete: Lesson 12 Exam

Lesson 13: Glossary of Terms

Important terminology to learn when becoming a nursing assistant. 103 Total Points
  • Take Poll: Was This Course Helpful?
  • Take Survey: Course Comments
  • Take Survey: Program Evaluation Follow-up Survey (End of Course)
  • Complete: Final Assignment
  • Complete: Final Exam
Total Course Points

Learning Outcomes

By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  • Define what a nursing assistant is.
  • Recognize vital signs and body measurements.
  • Describe basic health knowledge.
  • Describe common symptoms the nursing assistant faces.
  • Summarize patients' daily needs.
  • Describe patient mobility and safety.
  • Summarize patient nutrition and exercise.
  • Describe activities of daily living (ADL).
  • Summarize special care procedures and special needs patients
  • Summarize legal & ethical issues, and
  • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.

Additional Course Information

Online CEU Certificate
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Document Your CEUs on Your Resume
Course Title: Nursing Assistant Career Overview
Course Number: 8900169
Course Requirements: View Course Requirements
Languages: English - United States, Canada and other English speaking countries
Course Type: How To (Self-Paced, Online Class)
CEU Value: 0.5 IACET CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
CE Accreditation: Universal Class, Inc. has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
Grading Policy: Earn a final grade of 70% or higher to receive an online/downloadable CEU Certification documenting CEUs earned.
Assessment Method: Lesson assignments and review exams
Syllabus: View Syllabus
Duration: Continuous: Enroll anytime!
Course Fee: $50.00 (no CEU Certification) || with Online CEU Certification: $75.00

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