Nursing, Psychiatric, and Home Health Aides Salary

While the health care field demands psychiatrists and nurses, aides for these professionals are also required in large numbers. Aides are responsible for working directly with the patients, providing personal care and helping them with daily routines. This could include walking, bathing, leisure or social activities, dressing and eating. These helpful aides provide compassion and care for patients, often becoming a friend and trusted caregiver to the patient.

Salary Overview

Nursing aides earn an average hourly wage of $11.46, according to a Bureau of Labor and Statistics report projected in 2008. The lowest wage reported was $8.34, while the highest reported was $15.97. About 50% of the aides reviewed earned between $9.71 and $13.76 per hour. The highest wages were offered by employment agencies, followed by hospitals, nursing care facilities and home health care. Most hospitals and nursing facilities use a pay scale based on years of experience. As aides gain more experience, their salaries will increase. Performance raises are also offered in most facilities, sometimes more than once per year.*

Psychiatric aides earned an average of $12.77 per hour in May 2008, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Of this group, the middle 50% earned between $10.00 and $15.63 per hour. The lowest reported wage was less than $8.35 and the highest was more than $18.77 per hour. Those who earned the highest wages were employed by psychiatric and substance abuse housing facilities and hospitals, followed by general hospitals, nursing facilities, private and family services, mentally handicapped services and mental health and substance abuse facilities.*

*According to the BLS,

Job Description and Outlook

Nursing aides are utilized to assist residents and patients, helping them perform any routines related to daily living. Bathing, feeding, dressing and hygiene are tasks that many residents require help with. Nursing aides also are responsible for helping residents with walking and transferring from a bed or chair to a wheelchair. In addition to this, nursing aides must monitor their patients and report any abnormal behavior or symptoms of illness and distress to their charge nurse. In a home care setting, nursing aides visit patients in their home, helping them with their daily living activities, as well as housekeeping and cooking. There is a great deal of documentation that nursing aides are responsible for recording, pertaining to each patient individually. This information must be recorded accurately, as it is used to analyze the patient and is contributory toward their care plan.

Psychiatric aides work in various locations where patients requiring mental health rehabilitation and treatment are found. These aides work with the patients to provide assistance with eating, hygiene, bathing and any other personal care that is needed. One of the most important aspects of the psychiatric aide’s job is to keep patients’ minds active. Mental stimulation is an important part of mental health therapy; whether in a substance abuse facility or a psychiatric ward in a hospital, aides must ensure the patients are involved in activities, discussions and outings. Psychiatric aides are also responsible for carefully studying behavior, noting any detrimental changes or improvements. Changes must be reported to the psychiatrist and properly documented in charts.

Training and Education Requirements

Programs for nursing aides usually last between a week and a month, depending on the length of study each program includes each day. Most states require a minimum of 60-80 hours of study. Most hours are spent in a classroom, learning how to identify signs of illness, take vital signs and provide care to those who are unable to care for themselves. Several days are spent in a nursing facility, under the supervision of nurses, to practice taking care of patients in a hands-on setting. Psychiatric aide programs usually last about the same length of time and include the same information, with more concentrated areas in mental health care. Programs for these licenses are offered by colleges, vocational schools and hospitals.


Certification is granted after the nursing or psychiatric aide completes the necessary study program and takes a final exam, earning a passing grade. Additionally, clinical practice must be verified by an authorized teacher. After this, the teacher will send the information to the state’s licensing division, which will then issue a Certified Nursing Assistant or Psychiatric aide license. Licenses must be renewed every few years; to maintain an active status, aides must complete a certain amount of continuing education hours. These hours are completed by attending inservices and mandatory educational meetings held by employers.

Professional Associations

Nursing assistants who want to join a professional association will often join a national nurses association, such as the ANA. States often have associations for nursing assistants also, which is a network of other professionals offering support and information. Psychiatric aides may have a more difficult time finding professional associations for their career field. California and a few other states have associations specifically for psychiatric aides. Most nursing and psychiatric aides seek professional associations related to their field of specific interest. For example, a nursing assistant working with Alzheimer’s patients may choose to join a professional association designed specifically for employees who work with Alzheimer’s victims.

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