Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

Summary

nursing assistants image
Orderlies help transport patients in hospitals or residents in nursing homes.
Quick Facts: Nursing Assistants and Orderlies
2012 Median Pay $24,400 per year
$11.73 per hour
Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2012 1,534,400
Job Outlook, 2012-22 21% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 321,200

What Nursing Assistants and Orderlies Do

Nursing assistants and orderlies help provide basic care for patients in hospitals and residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.

Work Environment

Nursing assistants and orderlies work in nursing and residential care facilities and in hospitals. They are frequently active and may need to help lift or move patients.

How to Become a Nursing Assistant or Orderly

Nursing assistants must complete a state-approved education program and must pass their state’s competency exam to become certified. Orderlies generally have at least a high school diploma.

Pay

The median annual wage for nursing assistants was $24,420 in May 2012. The median annual wage for orderlies was $23,990 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of nursing assistants and orderlies is projected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Because of the growing elderly population, many nursing assistants and orderlies will be needed in long-term care facilities.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of nursing assistants and orderlies with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about nursing assistants and orderlies by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Nursing Assistants and Orderlies Do

Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants
Nursing assistants help patients with activities of daily living like eating and bathing.

Nursing assistants and orderlies help provide basic care for patients in hospitals and residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.

Duties

Nursing assistants, sometimes called nursing aides, provide basic care and help with activities of daily living. They typically do the following:

  • Clean and bathe patients or residents
  • 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

Some nursing assistants may also dispense medication, depending on their training level and the state in which they work.

In nursing homes, assistants are often the principal caregivers. They have more contact with residents than other members of the staff. Because some residents stay in a nursing home for months or years, assistants may develop close relationships with their patients.

Orderlies may do some of the same tasks as nursing assistants, although they do not usually provide healthcare services. They typically do the following:

  • Transport patients, such as taking a hospital patient to an operating room
  • Clean equipment and facilities

Nursing assistants and orderlies work as part of a healthcare team under the supervision of licensed practical or licensed vocational nurses and registered nurses.

Work Environment

Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants
Orderlies are responsible for keeping hospital facilities clean and tidy.

Nursing assistants held about 1.5 million jobs in 2012. Orderlies held about 54,600 jobs in 2012. More than half of all nursing assistants work in nursing and residential care facilities. Most orderlies work in hospitals.

The industries that employed the most nursing assistants in 2012 were as follows:

Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities)42%
Hospitals; state, local, and private26
Residential care facilities14
Home health care services4
Government4

The industries that employed the most orderlies in 2012 were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private73%
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities)13
Government4
Ambulatory health care services4
Residential care facilities3

The work of nursing assistants and orderlies can be strenuous. They spend much of their time on their feet as they take care of many patients or residents.

They wear uniforms to protect their clothing and to promote cleanliness.

Injuries and Illnesses

Because they frequently lift people and do other physically demanding tasks, on-the-job injuries are more common for nursing assistants and orderlies than for most other occupations. They are typically trained in how to properly lift and move patients, which can reduce the risk of injury.

Work Schedules

Most nursing assistants and orderlies work full time. Because nursing homes and hospitals provide care at all hours, nursing assistants and orderlies may need to work nights, weekends, and holidays.

How to Become a Nursing Assistant or Orderly

Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants
Nursing assistants should be personable and enjoy helping people.

Nursing assistants must complete a state-approved education program and must pass their state’s competency exam. Orderlies generally have at least a high school diploma.

Education and Training

Nursing assistants must complete a state-approved education program in which they learn the basic principles of nursing and complete supervised clinical work. These programs are found 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 and receive a short period of on-the-job training.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

After completing a state-approved education program, nursing assistants take a competency exam. Passing this exam allows them to use state-specific titles. In some states, a nursing assistant or aide is called a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), but titles vary from state to state.

Nursing assistants who have passed the exam are placed on a state registry. Nursing assistants 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 can earn additional credentials, such as becoming a Certified Medication Assistant (CMA). As a CMA, they can give medications. Nursing assistants may also choose to become certified in a specialty area, such as geriatrics.

Orderlies do not need a license, however, many jobs require a Basic Life Support certification which shows they are trained to provide CPR.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Nursing assistants and orderlies must be able to communicate effectively to address patients’ or residents’ concerns. They also need to relay important information to other healthcare workers.

Compassion. Nursing assistants and orderlies provide care for the sick, injured, and elderly. Doing so requires a compassionate and empathetic attitude.

Patience. The routine tasks of cleaning, feeding, and bathing patients or residents can be stressful. Nursing assistants and orderlies must be patient to provide quality care.

Physical stamina. Nursing assistants and orderlies spend much of their time on their feet. They should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as lifting or moving patients.

Pay

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

Median annual wages, May 2012

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Nursing assistants

$24,420

Nursing assistants and orderlies

$24,400

Orderlies

$23,990

 

The median annual wage for nursing assistants was $24,420 in May 2012. 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 $18,300, and the top 10 percent earned more than $35,330.

The median annual wage for orderlies was $23,990 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,730, and the top 10 percent earned more than $36,390.

Most nursing assistants and orderlies work full time. Because nursing homes and hospitals provide care at all hours, nursing aides and orderlies may need to work nights, weekends, and holidays.

Job Outlook

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Nursing assistants

21%

Nursing assistants and orderlies

21%

Orderlies

17%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of nursing assistants is projected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of orderlies is projected to grow 17 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.

As the baby-boom population ages, many nursing assistants and orderlies will be needed to care for elderly patients in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. In addition, growing rates of several chronic conditions and of dementia will lead to increased demand for patient care.

Demand for nursing assistants may be constrained by the fact that many nursing homes rely on government funding. Cuts to programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, may affect patients’ ability to pay for nursing home care. However, patient preferences and shifts in federal and state funding are increasing the demand for home and community-based long-term care, which should lead to increased opportunities for nursing assistants working in home health and community rehabilitation services.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for nursing assistants who have completed a state-approved education program and passed their state’s competency exam should be good, particularly in home health care services and community-based care settings. Because of the emotional and physical demands of this occupation, many nursing assistants and orderlies choose to leave the profession to get more training or another job. This creates opportunities for jobseekers.

Employment projections data for Nursing Assistants and Orderlies, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Nursing assistants and orderlies

1,534,400 1,855,600 21 321,200

Nursing assistants

31-1014 1,479,800 1,792,000 21 312,200 [XLS]

Orderlies

31-1015 54,600 63,600 17 9,100 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of nursing assistants and orderlies.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
home health aides image

Home Health Aides

Home health aides help people who are disabled, chronically ill, or cognitively impaired. They often help older adults who need assistance. In some states, home health aides may be able to give a client medication or check the client’s vital signs under the direction of a nurse or other healthcare practitioner.

Less than high school $20,820
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.

Postsecondary non-degree award $41,540
Medical assistants

Medical Assistants

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, and other health practitioners. Their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice.

Postsecondary non-degree award $29,370
Occupational therapy assistants and aides

Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working. Occupational therapy assistants are directly involved in providing therapy to patients, while occupational therapy aides typically perform support activities. Both assistants and aides work under the direction of occupational therapists.

See How to Become One $48,940
personal care aides image

Personal Care Aides

Personal care aides help clients with self-care and everyday tasks, and provide companionship.

Less than high school $19,910
Psychiatric technicians and aides

Psychiatric Technicians and Aides

Psychiatric technicians and aides care for people who have mental illness and developmental disabilities. Technicians typically provide therapeutic care. Aides help patients in their daily activities and ensure a safe, clean environment.

See How to Become One $27,440
Physical therapist assistants and aides

Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Physical therapist assistants (sometimes called PTAs) and physical therapist aides work under the direction and supervision of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries and illnesses regain movement and manage pain.

See How to Become One $39,430
Registered nurses

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.

Associate’s degree $65,470
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Nursing Assistants and Orderlies,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nursing-assistants.htm (visited December 21, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014