Nurse Assistant or Patient Care Assistant

Nursing assistants provide much support for the nursing and medical staff of many health care institutions. A certified nursing assistant (CNA) is a type of nurse who has gone through training and certification, and works alongside registered nurses to help patients perform many activities of daily living. Also called patient care assistants, nurse’s aides, nursing technicians, or orderlies; CNAs often work in hospitals, nursing homes, and home health situations.

CNAs work with patients to assist with bathing, toileting, and walking when patients need help doing these tasks. CNAs may also make beds or clean the areas where patients are staying; and in home health situations, they may help to clean up a person’s house or help with errands. CNAs learn how to take patient vital signs, such as heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and temperature. They learn to watch for changes in patient condition and report these findings to a registered nurse.


In order to become a nursing assistant, you must have a high school diploma or a GED equivalent. Most CNAs also have the aptitude to care for patients, such as having the personality of someone who enjoys people, who wants to work hard, and who likes to serve others.

Some nursing schools have programs to train CNAs, or you may find training programs through hospitals or technical colleges. Classes last approximately six weeks, and you will learn how to care for patients through work in the classroom as well as clinical practice. Some hospitals that provide training may expect students to practice learning skills to care for patients during the program and then help students to pass the certification exam. They may then employ students who have passed the classes as CNAs in the hospital facility.

Following training, you must take a test to become certified as a nursing assistant. The exam covers the concepts you have learned in the classroom, and once certified, you can find a job working as a CNA. The role of a nursing assistant is extremely important in the health care environment. CNAs support health care staff by doing work so that nurses can perform other, critical tasks. In many situations, nurses count on CNAs to work with as a team to provide the best care for patients.

Licensed Vocational Nurse Training

A licensed vocational nurse (LVN) works in a health care setting, frequently under the direction of a registered nurse or nurse manager. An LVN is a title for this type of nurse in the states of California and Texas, while many other locations use the title of licensed practical nurse (LPN).

Training for LVNs takes approximately one year in length after the student has completed the necessary prerequisites for the program, which may take an additional year. LVN training involves learning the concepts of basic patient care, administering medications, and helping patients to perform activities of daily living. Students must practice in a clinical setting as part of most programs, which provides an opportunity to work in a health care situation and put into practice the concepts taught in the classroom.

LVNs work in health care institutions such as hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, and nursing homes. They provide bedside care for patients, including such activities as feeding, bathing, and positioning them. They are also trained to administer oral medications and intramuscular injections, although in most settings, working with intravenous medications is beyond the scope of practice. LVNs often work under the direction of a supervisor and, through training, learn to understand what situations require reporting to a registered nurse or supervisor, such as adverse reactions to medications or declining vital signs.

In order to become an LVN, you must complete a training program, which is typically offered through technical or community colleges. Some high schools are now also starting programs to train LVNs, as a method of meeting the need for educated health care professionals. Once you have completed your courses and clinical practice, you must register to take the NCLEX-PN, which is the state licensing test specifically for LVNs and LPNs. Upon passing the test, you will be licensed to practice and you can start working, helping patients, and assisting other professionals.