Nurse Assistants


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Although a high school diploma is not always required to work as a nurse assistant, there are a number of high school classes that can help you do this work. Communication skills are valuable for a nurse assistant to have, so take English classes. Science courses, such as biology and anatomy, and family and consumer science, health, and nutrition classes are also helpful. Some high schools offer courses directly related to nurse assistant training. These classes may include body mechanics, infection control, and resident/patient rights.

Postsecondary Training

Nurse assistants are not required to have a college degree, but they may have to complete a short training course at a community college or vocational school. These training courses, usually taught by a registered nurse, teach basic nursing skills and prepare students for the state certification exam. Nurse assistants typically begin the training courses after getting their first job as an assistant, and the course work is often incorporated into their on-the-job training.

Many people work as nurse assistants as they pursue other medical professions such as a premedical or nursing program.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Some states require nurse assistants to be certified no matter where they work. Nursing assistants are often required to have a state-issued license or certification. They may also have to meet continuing education requirements. Some states also require a criminal background check. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 requires nurse assistants working in nursing homes to undergo special training. Nursing homes can hire inexperienced workers as nurse assistants, but they must have at least 75 hours of training and pass a competency evaluation program within four months of being hired. Those who fulfill these requirements are then certified. In some states, nursing assistants may add the credential Certified Medical Assistant, which enables them to diespense medications. 

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Nurse assistants should have experience in helping nurses and other health care staff in providing patient care and maintaining a safe working environment. Nurse assistants should have a demonstrated background in taking patients’ temperature, changing bandages, transporting patients and assisting patients with daily living skills such as bathing, dressing/undressing, feeding and exercising. Some nurse assistants also provide routine housekeeping services, such as making beds and tidying up rooms.

Nurse assistants should care about their patients and demonstrate genuine understanding and compassion for the ill, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Because of the rigorous physical demands of the job, nurse assistants should be in good health and have good work habits. Along with good physical health, nurse assistants should exhibit good mental health and a cheerful disposition.