The nursing profession includes a lot of basic, hands-on patient care, and there's almost always more work than hands. Nurses' aides, or nursing assistants as they're also called, help nurses by providing some of that routine daily care. It's a flexible career, with minimal training requirements and solid employment prospects. You can become licensed in just a few months through online or classroom instruction.
Before you start looking at training programs, it's important to find out what your state's licensing requirements are. All states maintain a registry for their nurses' aides, but each one can have its own requirements. For example, South Dakota's regulations call for 40 hours of theory and 35 hours of practical, hands-on experience. Kentucky also requires 75 hours of training, but only 16 hours are spent in clinical experience. Kentucky's regulations also specify that nurses' aides have to get their training in Kentucky, which eliminates any online program based in another state. Others might only recognize accredited programs. It's best to find out the details in your state before you spend any money.
Choosing a Program
Once you know what your state's regulations are, you can decide which program you'd like to take. Online courses from community or vocational colleges in your own state are a good choice, because they're likely to meet the state's regulatory requirements. So are programs accredited by the National League for Nursing, which are recognized by most states. Talking to employers in your area can also be helpful. If they have strong preferences about online training programs, it's best to know that before you take your training and apply for a job.
Completing Your Training
One of the biggest advantages of online training is that it puts you in control of your hours. If you're already working at a full-time job, you can do the course work in short sessions after work. If you have time on your hands, you can burn through it quickly. Aside from completing the work and passing your school's exams, you'll also need to find work in a hospital, nursing home or other health-care facility. Most states won't let you practice until you've completed your experience requirement, and then applied for your license or registration.
As a CNA, you occupy the lowest rung on the ladder of nursing careers, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Your training is quick and inexpensive, so you can be earning an income while nursing students are still racking up student loans. Hospitals and nursing homes are 24/7 workplaces, so you can probably find any combination of shifts that fits with your lifestyle. Employment prospects are pretty good, largely because the country's getting older and the need for nursing care is growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 20 percent job growth for CNAs by 2020, whch compares to the expected 14 percent average in growth for all U.S. occupations.
- Explore Health Careers: Nurses Aide/Nursing Assistant
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Nursing Aides, Orderlies, and Attendants
- Kentucky Community and Technical College System: Nurse Aide Training Criteria and Registry
- Lake Area Technical Institute: Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) On-line Program
- Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images