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Nursing, Psychiatric, and Home Health Aides - Career Opportunities

Nurses' Aides and Psychiatric Aides provide supervised care for physically ill, mentally ill, injured, disabled, or infirm individuals in hospitals, care homes and institutions. Home health aides perform similar duties in the patient's home.

Aides help take the patient's temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure. They provide health-related services, including administering oral medications. Psychiatric aides care for mentally impaired or emotionally disturbed individuals. They work with professional staff to help the patient in educational and recreational activities and in other ways.

Nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides hold about 2.2 million jobs in the U.S. Approximately 1.5 million of these employees are nursing aides. Home health aides hold about 650,000 jobs and psychiatric aides about 60,000 jobs.

A high school diploma or equivalent may be necessary for a job as a nursing or psychiatric aide, but generally is not required for jobs as home health aides. Nursing care facilities may hire inexperienced workers who then complete a minimum of 75 hours of mandatory training and pass a competency evaluation within 4 months. Nursing and psychiatric aide training is offered in high schools, vocational-technical centers, nursing care facilities and some community colleges. Courses cover body mechanics, nutrition, anatomy and physiology, infection control, communication skills, and resident rights.

Federal law for medicare funded facilities requires home health aides to pass a competency test for a wide range of skills. Federal law suggests at least 75 hours of classroom and practical training, supervised by a registered nurse before taking the test. The National Association for Home Care offers a voluntary national certification for home health aides. Some states also require aides to be licensed.

Nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides must be able to:

perform routine tasks under the supervision of nursing and medical staff.
help patients with all mundane and personal needs.
provide basic medical or health services, such as taking their temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure and administering oral medications.
observe patients' physical, mental, and emotional conditions.
work in a team under professional supervision.
socialize with patients.

Overall employment of aides is projected to grow much faster than average for all U.S. occupations, although individual occupational growth rates will vary.

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