To become a nursing assistant, you must complete a state-approved education program and pass a state exam, notes the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Typically, you must complete some on-the-job training. Some states have additional requirements, such as passing a criminal background check or completing continuing education.
Nursing assistant education programs focus on the fundamentals of nursing and include supervised clinical training, according to the BLS. They are offered through high schools, technical schools, community colleges, hospitals and nursing homes. On-the-job training focuses on procedures and policies specific to your employer. Check with your state's board of nursing or health to determine any additional requirements for your state.
The BLS states that a competency exam is the next step. Passing this exam puts you on a state registry which allows you to work in nursing homes. It also allows you to become a Certified Nursing Assistant or use another state-specific title. In some states, you might go on to become a Certified Medical Assistant, a position that allows you to give medications. Certifications are also available in specialty areas.
The BLS notes that communication skills, compassion and patience are important qualities for a nursing assistant. Physical stamina is also essential, because nursing assistants spend a lot of time on their feet and need to be able to lift and move patients.