How To Become a Nursing Assistant: Guide and Career Tips

Updated 26 January 2023

Nursing assistants work in various medical and health facilities to assist doctors and registered nurses (RNs) in caring for patients. The profession is physically and mentally challenging, but it can offer you many opportunities to help people in need and make a significant difference in their lives. By understanding the responsibilities of a nurse assistant, you can decide if it is a role you want to do in the long term. In this article, we can find out what a nursing assistant does, their work responsibilities, educational requirements, work environment and salary and how to become a nursing assistant.

What does a nursing assistant do?

A nursing assistant works under the supervision of experienced healthcare professionals like doctors and RNs to look after patients, provide them with essential medical care and aid in their recovery. They generally work in clinics, hospitals and nursing homes and may be part of a nursing team. To thrive in this profession, they typically use the following:

  • excellent nursing skills

  • good communication skills

  • a kind and caring attitude

  • a calm and sensible outlook

  • the stamina to work long hours

  • the technical know-how of medical equipment

Related: Nurse Resume Skills To Boost Your CV: Tips and Suggestions

How to become a nursing assistant

You can become a nursing assistant by following these steps:

1. Clear 10+2

You can get admission into nursing assistant certificate and diploma courses after passing the 10th Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exam from a recognised board. You might benefit more in your nursing career by also clearing the 10+2 Higher School Certificate (HSC) and preferably in the science stream, although arts and commerce streams are acceptable, too. Some programmes and employers may require the 10+2 qualification, and it could enable you to go for higher nursing studies later. Since admission to the nursing courses can be competitive, you may benefit from scoring more than the minimally required 50% marks.

2. Complete a certificate course

You can do a certificate course in nursing care assistant (CNCA) after the 10th. The admission may be direct or merit-based, and the paramedic course typically lasts six months to a year. Alongside being taught by experienced healthcare professionals, you can get on-the-job nursing training at leading healthcare centres. The curriculum may cover human anatomy, first aid, wound management, patient care, antenatal and postnatal care, administering prescription drugs, biomedical waste management, medical records documentation and more. It may also include employability skills like personality development, English speaking and information technology. Some courses also offer internships.

After completing the course, you can provide nursing assistance in hospitals, nursing homes, maternity wards, childcare centres and home settings. You may work under doctors and registered nurses and assist them in examining patients, assessing their health condition, treating wounds, administering medications, giving injections, monitoring patients' health progress and maintaining health records.

3. Earn a DNCA diploma

You can earn a two-year diploma in nursing care assistant (DNCA) after the 10th. The coursework may cover fundamentals of nursing, medical-surgical operations, community diseases. After completing the course, you can work under qualified nurses (RNs) and doctors in hospitals, medical centres, nursing homes and educational institutes. You can assist in medical procedures, provide first aid, do administrative work and undertake medical writing.

The college admission is according to the regulations set by the Indian Nursing Council and may be direct admission or merit-based and between April to June. You may have to give a written test or a personal interview. The course may cover topics like introduction to nursing, introduction to pharmacology, community health nursing, first aid, patient safety, transporting the patient, nutrition, pediatric nursing, personal hygiene, communication skills, etiquette and more.

4. Obtain an ANM diploma

To be eligible for the two-year Auxiliary Nursing and Midwifery (ANM) diploma programme, you may show proof that you passed the 10+2 exam in science, arts or commerce streams with at least 45% marks from a recognised board and in the 17 to 35 years age group. You may also provide a medical certificate attesting to your physical and mental health fitness. You can then pass entrance exams like:

  • Maharashtra ANM Exam

  • Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) Nursing Entrance Exam

  • Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (JIPMER) Nursing Entrance Exam

The ANM diploma course covers topics like the human body, hygiene, mental health, midwifery, environmental sanitation and health centre management. It includes a six-month compulsory internship. After completing the ANM programme, you can work professionally as an assistant nurse in an urban or rural healthcare setting. Many diploma-holders choose to pursue further education.

5. Acquire a GNM diploma

The General Nursing and Midwifery (GNM) diploma program takes three years to complete. To qualify, you can show proof you passed the 10+2 exam in the science stream, with physics, chemistry and biology, and at least 50% aggregate marks. Admission to the course may be merit-based or dependent on your passing competitive entrance exams. Some of the entrance exams you can take are:

  • Mahatma Gandhi Mission Common Entrance Test (MGM CET)

  • Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) Open Nursing Entrance Test (NET)

  • Rajasthan University of Health Sciences (RUHS) Nursing Entrance Exam

The GNM diploma course covers topics like anatomy and physiology, health education, personal hygiene, microbiology, pharmacology, communicable diseases, pediatric nursing and health economics. You may have to complete a six-month internship as part of the course.

6. Complete an internship

After completing a certificate or diploma course, you can do an internship in a hospital or other medical facility. Your educational institute may arrange for the internship, or you may search and apply for available ones. Internships may last six months or longer.

7. Apply for a job

You may get a job offer after completing your internship, or you can search for nursing assistant positions on online job sites like Indeed. You can also look for available assistant nurse jobs on the websites of hospitals, care homes and other medical institutions. It can help to prepare a resume and cover letter template and customise these for every application. Additionally, it is advisable to practise well for job interviews.

Related: 25 Nursing Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

8. Advance your career

After gaining work experience, you can consider doing a four-year bachelor's degree in nursing to advance your career. To be eligible for this programme, you may show proof you completed the 10+2 in the science stream, with physics, chemistry and biology, or have an ANM diploma or a GNM diploma. You may also pass entrance exams like:

  • National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET)

  • All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) B.Sc. (H) Nursing Entrance Exam

  • Military Nursing Service (MNS) Entrance Exam

What are the work responsibilities of a nursing assistant?

The exact day-to-day work responsibilities of nursing assistants can vary according to the needs of their patients and their employment setting. Some of their tasks may include the following:

  • helping doctors and RNs with patient admissions, examinations and medical procedures

  • taking and carrying out patient care instructions by doctors and RNs

  • answering calls from patients and their family members and informing them about their health treatment

  • bathing patients, combing hair, shaving them, clipping their nails and brushing their teeth

  • cleaning the patients' rooms, giving them fresh clothes and changing their bed linen

  • feeding patients as per their dietary requirements and recording their solid and liquid intake

  • recording the patients' weight, pulse, blood pressure, temperature and other vital signs

  • dressing wounds, changing bandages and administering prescribed medications

  • stocking medical supplies and arranging medical equipment and accessories in patients' rooms

  • accompanying patients from their rooms for tests, examinations and treatment processes

  • monitoring and recording changes in the patients' health and reporting to the doctors and RNs

Related: Nursing Roles and Responsibilities: A Complete Guide

What is the work environment for nursing assistants?

The work environment for nursing assistants is generally an indoor health care setting. They may work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, childcare centres, community health centres, non-governmental organisations and the Indian Armed Forces. Some nursing assistants may provide personalised care in private homes. Nursing assistants usually work for long hours caring for patients, and they have the physical stamina to walk about, stand for long periods and climb stairs. They have the strength to support, turn, lift and move patients. Additionally, they often have the mental equilibrium to deal daily with illnesses, diseases and deaths.

Related: What Is a Medical Assistant? Definition and Career Advice

What is the salary of nursing assistants?

The national average salary for a nursing assistant is ₹17,953 per month. The exact pay may differ as per the employer, location, experience and work duties. Nursing assistants enrolled with the Indian army also receive allowances for accommodation, ration, clothing, medical treatment and railway travel. Additionally, they get 60 days paid annual leave, 30 days casual leave and leave encashment.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Explore more articles

  • What Does a PHP Developer Do? (Responsibilities and Salary)
  • What Is An MBA In Product Management? (Plus Pros And Cons)
  • 7 Alternative Careers For Librarians (With Salary And Tips)
  • 8 Jobs That Allow You To Work On The Phone (With Duties)
  • Company Secretary Job Description Sample (Plus Requirements)
  • Work In Canada: A Guide And Employment Opportunities
  • What Is Business Management? (With Skills And Top Careers)
  • What Is A Graphic Designer Career Path? (With Skills)
  • Top 10 Science Writing Careers (With Salary Information)
  • High Paying Armed Security Jobs (With Salaries And Duties)
  • Graphic Designer Vs. Graphic Artist (Comparison And Details)
  • 6 Salesforce Developer Certifications To Pursue (With Benefits)