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
2014 Median Pay $25,090 per year
$12.06 per hour
Typical 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, 2014 1,545,200
Job Outlook, 2014-24 17% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 267,800

What Nursing Assistants and Orderlies Do

Nursing assistants, sometimes called nursing aides, help provide basic care for patients in hospitals and residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. Orderlies transport patients and clean treatment areas.

Work Environment

Nursing assistants and orderlies work in nursing and residential care facilities and in hospitals. They are frequently physically 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 and orderlies was $25,090 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of nursing assistants and orderlies is projected to grow 17 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Because of the growing elderly population, many nursing assistants and orderlies will be needed to assist and care for these patients.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for nursing assistants and orderlies.

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, sometimes called nursing aides, help provide basic care for patients in hospitals and residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. Orderlies transport patients and clean treatment areas.

Duties

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

In nursing homes and residential care facilities, 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 residents.

Orderlies typically do the following:

  • Assist patients with moving about the facility, such as pushing wheelchairs
  • Clean equipment and facilities
  • Change linens
  • Stock supplies

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 hospitals and other facilities clean and tidy.

Nursing assistants held about 1.5 million jobs in 2014. Orderlies held about 53,000 jobs in 2014.

The industries that employed the most nursing assistants in 2014 were as follows:

Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 41%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 25
Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly 11
Home healthcare services 5
Government 4

The industries that employed the most orderlies in 2014 were as follows: 

Hospitals; state, local, and private 70%
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 11
Ambulatory healthcare services 6
Government 4
Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly 3

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.

Injuries and Illnesses

Because they frequently lift people and do other physically demanding tasks, nursing assistants and orderlies have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. They are typically trained in how to properly lift and move patients, which can reduce the risk of injuries.

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 must be able to communicate effectively to address patients’ or residents’ concerns.

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 competency 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.

Orderlies do not need a license, however, many jobs require a Basic Life Support (BLS) certification, which shows they are trained to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (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 assist and 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 have patience in order to complete these tasks.

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 2014

Total, all occupations

$35,540

Healthcare support occupations

$26,440

Nursing assistants

$25,100

Nursing assistants and orderlies

$25,090

Orderlies

$24,650

 

The median annual wage for nursing assistants was $25,100 in May 2014. 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 $18,790, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $36,170.

The median annual wage for orderlies was $24,650 in May 2014. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,110, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $37,710.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for nursing assistants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows: 

Government $30,200
Hospitals; state, local, and private 27,360
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 24,120
Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly 23,650
Home healthcare services 23,080

In May 2014, the median annual wages for orderlies in the top industries in which they worked were as follows: 

Government $29,260
Ambulatory healthcare services 26,040
Hospitals; state, local, and private 25,000
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 21,250
Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly 20,500

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 2014-24

Healthcare support occupations

23%

Nursing assistants

18%

Nursing assistants and orderlies

17%

Orderlies

11%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of nursing assistants is projected to grow 18 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of orderlies is projected to grow 11 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.

As the baby-boom population ages, many nursing assistants and orderlies will be needed to assist and care for elderly patients in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. Older people are more likely than younger people to experience dementia, as well as chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. More nursing assistants will be needed to care for patients with these conditions.

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. In addition, 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 healthcare services and community-based care settings. The low pay and high emotional and physical demands cause many workers to leave the occupation, and they will have to be replaced. This creates opportunities for jobseekers.

Employment projections data for nursing assistants and orderlies, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Nursing assistants and orderlies

1,545,200 1,813,000 17 267,800

Nursing assistants

31-1014 1,492,100 1,754,100 18 262,000 [XLSX]

Orderlies

31-1015 53,000 58,800 11 5,800 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

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 2014 MEDIAN PAY
home health aides image

Home Health Aides

Home health aides help people with disabilities, chronic illness, or cognitive impairment with activities of daily living. 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.

No formal educational credential $21,380
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 nondegree award $42,490
Medical assistants

Medical Assistants

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. Their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice.

Postsecondary nondegree award $29,960
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; occupational therapy aides typically perform support activities. Both assistants and aides work under the direction of occupational therapists.

See How to Become One $52,300
personal care aides image

Personal Care Aides

Personal care aides help clients with self-care and everyday tasks. They also provide social supports and assistance that enable clients to participate in their communities.

No formal educational credential $20,440
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 and monitor their patients’ conditions. Aides help patients in their daily activities and ensure a safe, clean environment.

See How to Become One $28,470
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 $41,640
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.

Bachelor's degree $66,640
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Nursing Assistants and Orderlies,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nursing-assistants.htm (visited February 06, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015