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Characteristics of Nursing Assistants

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Nursing assistants are commonly referred to as aides, attendants or orderlies. They usually work in medical facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes. A high school diploma and state certification are common requirements to get into this position, which paid a median annual salary of $24,010 as of May 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Along with the education and training, several qualities are useful in nursing assistants.

Concern for People

Nursing assistants typically have one of the most direct roles with patients, yet also one of the lowest-paying medical salaries. Thus, a genuine concern for people and a desire to help are key to long-term motivation. Assistants provide basic care for the sick and injured, including listening to their concerns, offering basic types of treatment and helping them get to the right spot for treatment in a medical facility.

Strong Communication Skills

Strong communication skills are necessary as well. An assistant may be with a patient when he becomes really sick or suffers extreme pain from an injury. The ability to draw out the patient's feelings and concerns is useful in getting him the right treatment. Additionally, aides are part of the broader medical team, which includes doctors and registered nurses. They must listen and take direction and participate in collaborative discussions on patient care.

Discipline and Patience

The work of nursing assistants is important, but often routine. This requires a strong degree of commitment to the role and discipline to carry it out consistently. Patience is similarly important for assistants, especially in retirement facilities. Elderly patients are often slower moving and may take longer to articulate concerns and thoughts. An orderly needs to exercise patience in both communicating and helping the patient move from one place to another.

Attention to Detail

Because of the often repetitive nature of the job, nursing assistants also need a high level of attention to detail. When helping an injured patient into or out of bed or a wheelchair, for instance, even momentary distractions can lead to a fall that could cause further injury. Orderlies must also read and take notes, which are important in ongoing care, making clear and accurate detail essential.


Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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