What Nursing Assistants and Orderlies Do
Nursing assistants provide basic care and help patients with activities of daily living. Orderlies transport patients and clean treatment areas.
Most nursing assistants and orderlies work in nursing and residential care facilities and in hospitals. They are physically active and may need to help lift or move patients.
How to Become a Nursing Assistant or Orderly
Nursing assistants often need to complete a state-approved education program and pass their state’s competency exam to become licensed or certified. Orderlies typically have at least a high school diploma.
The median annual wage for nursing assistants was $29,660 in May 2019.
The median annual wage for orderlies was $28,980 in May 2019.
Overall employment of nursing assistants and orderlies is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than 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.
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
Nursing assistants held about 1.5 million jobs in 2019. The largest employers of nursing assistants were as follows:
|Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities)||37%|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||27|
|Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly||11|
|Home healthcare services||5|
Orderlies held about 50,600 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of orderlies were as follows:
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||78%|
|Ambulatory healthcare services||5|
The work of nursing assistants and orderlies may be strenuous. They spend much of their time on their feet as they care for patients.
Injuries and Illnesses
Nursing assistants and orderlies have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. These workers frequently move patients and have other physically demanding tasks. They typically get training in how to properly lift people, which can reduce the risk of injuries.
Although most nursing assistants and orderlies work full time, some work part time. Because nursing and residential care facilities and hospitals provide care at all hours, nursing assistants and orderlies may need to work nights, weekends, and holidays.
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||Median Annual Pay, May 2019|
Home Health Aides and Personal Care Aides
Home health aides and personal care aides help people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or cognitive impairment by assisting in their daily living activities.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$25,280|
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care.
|Postsecondary nondegree award||$47,480|
Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in hospitals, offices of physicians, and other healthcare facilities.
|Postsecondary nondegree award||$34,800|
Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides
Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working.
|See How to Become One||$59,200|
Psychiatric Technicians and Aides
Psychiatric technicians and aides care for people who have mental illness and developmental disabilities.
|See How to Become One||$32,020|
Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides
Physical therapist assistants and aides are supervised by physical therapists to help patients regain movement and manage pain after injuries and illnesses.
|See How to Become One||$48,990|
Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care and educate patients and the public about various health conditions.
Dental assistants provide patient care, take x rays, keep records, and schedule appointments.
|Postsecondary nondegree award||$40,080|
Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers handle routine animal care and help scientists, veterinarians, and others with their daily tasks.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$28,590|
For more information about nursing assistants and orderlies, visit
For more information about state requirements, visit
For a career video on nursing assistants, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nursing Assistants and Orderlies,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nursing-assistants.htm (visited ).