Nursing assistants provide basic care and help patients with activities of daily living. Orderlies transport patients and clean treatment areas.
What they do
Nursing assistants, sometimes called nursing aides, provide basic care and help patients with activities of daily living. Orderlies transport patients and clean treatment areas.
Nursing assistants and orderlies work as part of a healthcare team under the supervision of licensed practical or licensed vocational nurses and registered nurses.
Nursing assistants provide basic care and help with activities of daily living. They typically do the following:
- Clean and bathe patients
- Help patients use the toilet and dress
- Turn, reposition, and transfer patients between beds and wheelchairs
- Listen to and record patients’ health concerns and report that information to nurses
- Measure patients’ vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature
- Serve meals and help patients eat
Depending on their training level and the state in which they work, nursing assistants also may dispense medication.
Nursing assistants are often the principal caregivers in nursing and residential care facilities. Nursing assistants often develop relationships with their patients because some patients stay in these facilities for months or years.
Orderlies typically do the following:
- Help patients to move around the facility, such as by pushing their wheelchairs
- Clean equipment and facilities
- Change linens
- Stock supplies
The work of nursing assistants and orderlies may be strenuous. They spend much of their time on their feet as they care for patients.
How to become a Nursing Assistant and/or Orderly
Nursing assistants typically must complete a state-approved education program and pass their state’s competency exam. Orderlies typically have at least a high school diploma or equivalent.
Nursing assistants often need to complete a state-approved education program that includes both instruction on the principles of nursing and supervised clinical work. These programs are available in high schools, community colleges, vocational and technical schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.
In addition, nursing assistants typically complete a brief period of on-the-job training to learn about their specific employer’s policies and procedures.
Orderlies typically have at least a high school diploma or equivalent and receive a short period of on-the-job training.
Specific requirements for nursing assistants vary by state. Nursing assistants often need a state-issued license or certification. After completing an approved education program, nursing assistants often must pass a competency exam, which allows them to use state-specific titles. In some states, a nursing assistant is called a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), but titles vary by state.
Nursing assistants who have passed the competency exam are placed on a state registry. They must be on the state registry to work in a nursing home.
Some states have other requirements as well, such as continuing education and a criminal background check. Check with state boards of nursing or health for more information.
In some states, nursing assistants may earn additional credentials, such as Certified Medication Assistant (CMA). As a CMA, they may dispense medications.
Orderlies do not need a license; however, jobs might require certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or basic life support (BLS).
The median annual wage for nursing assistants was $29,660 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,960, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $40,620.
Employment of nursing assistants is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of orderlies is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster as the average for all occupations.
As the baby-boom population ages, nursing assistants and orderlies will be needed to help care for an increasing number of older patients in nursing and residential care facilities. Older people are more likely than younger people to have disorders such as dementia, or to live with chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. More nursing assistants will be needed to care for patients with these conditions.
Similar Job Titles
Certified Medication Aide (CMA), Certified Nurse Aide (CNA), Certified Nurse's Aide (CNA), Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Licensed Nursing Assistant (LNA), Nurses' Aide, Nursing Aide, Nursing Assistant, Patient Care Assistant (PCA), State Tested Nursing Assistant (STNA), Emergency Room Orderly
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- National Association for Home Care and Hospice - The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) is the largest and most respected professional association representing the interests of chronically ill, disabled, and dying Americans of all ages and the caregivers who provide them with in-home health and hospice services. NAHCH is a trade association that represents the nation’s 33,000 home care and hospice organizations.
- National Association of Health Care Assistants - The mission of the National Association of Health Care Assistants is to elevate the professional standing and performance of caregivers through recognition, advocacy, education and empowerment while building a strong alliance with health care providers to maximize success and quality patient care.
- American Nurses Association - ANA is at the forefront of improving the quality of health care for all.
Magazines and Publications
- Magazine for Certified Nursing Assistants
- Nurse Journal
- American Nurse Today
- Online Journal of Issues in Nursing
- Geriatric Nursing Journal
- Journal for Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Midwifery Today
Every hospital, clinic, and nursing home relies on a team of skilled staff to provide personal care to patients; nursing assistants and orderlies are an important part of that team. Under the supervision of nursing staff, nursing assistants provide basic care for patients, while orderlies transport patients and clean treatment areas. Nursing assistants answer patient call signals, turn or reposition bedridden patients, and ensure each patient receives the appropriate diet. They help patients with daily living activities such as getting out of bed, using the bathroom, bathing, and walking. Nursing assistants measure vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature. They observe and listen to patients’ health concerns, then document and share them with supervising nurses. Orderlies move patients between bed and wheelchair or gurney, change bed linens, stock supplies, and clean facilities. Most nursing assistants work in nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living facilities, and in-home health care. Most orderlies work in hospitals. Nursing assistants and orderlies typically work full time. Their work is physically demanding, with long hours spent on their feet and lifting and moving patients, so injuries are a risk. Work schedules that include nights, weekends, and holidays are common. Nursing assistants must complete state-approved training, lasting from a few months to a year, then pass their state’s certification exam. Orderlies typically have at least a high school diploma or equivalent and receive on-the-job training.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org