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Orderly Duties and Responsibilities

Often referred to as nursing aides, the functions performed by orderlies vary from employer to employer. Despite these differences, orderlies are often tasked with performing the following duties:

Clean and Bathe Patients Many hospital and nursing home patients are too ill to complete basic tasks such as bathing, brushing their teeth, and putting on clothes. Orderlies help these individuals complete these tasks and provide assistance as needed. They ensure patients have clean clothes that are free of stains.

Serve Meals Some patients cannot feed themselves, so orderlies may be asked to help them eat. They may need to cut up food and ensure patients do not choke while eating. They also make sure patients’ dietary needs are taken into consideration by the hospital cafeteria staff.

Dispense Medications Many patients have illnesses that prevent them from remembering to take their medicine. Orderlies often obtain patients’ medications from the pharmacy and distribute them at certain times during the day. They may report any changes in medication to the family of the patient.

Measure Vital Signs Patients must be constantly monitored to ensure they remain safe and healthy. Orderlies are often tasked with taking vital signs such as temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. They report any significant findings or changes to doctors or nurses.

Maintain Rooms Orderlies are usually responsible for emptying trash cans and bedpans, changing sheets, and performing other basic cleaning tasks. They may also clean up common areas such as visiting rooms and dining halls.


Orderly Skills and Qualifications

Orderlies play an important role in the healthcare field, and they have a strong dedication to patients and a high level of compassion. They also need to obtain a CNA certification in most states. Hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics often look for orderlies with the following skills and qualifications:

  • Medical knowledge – although orderlies do not perform the same functions as nurses, they may be required to check vital signs and interpret basic medical information. They should have a strong understanding of basic pharmacology and know when to report a health problem to doctors or nurses
  • Math skills – orderlies should know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. They should also know how to properly measure medications and other items
  • First aid experience – most orderlies will not be tasked with saving the lives of patients, but they may need to medically assist patients until a doctor or nurse practitioner can arrive. They should know how to perform CPR and recognize the signs of serious illnesses
  • Patience – orderlies work in a very demanding field and should be able to control their emotions and remain calm under stress. They should be compassionate and understand the importance of patients’ emotions at all times
  • Communication skills – orderlies are expected to communicate with other orderlies, doctors, nurses, and physician assistants on a regular basis, so they should have excellent written and verbal communication skills

Orderly Education and Training

To become an orderly, a person must first become a certified nursing assistant (CNA). This usually involves obtaining an associate’s degree from an accredited two-year technical or community college. During their studies, students take courses in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, and other medical science topics. After graduation, they’re usually required to take an exam and pass a criminal background check. Orderlies also receive a significant amount of on-the-job training until they are able to perform their jobs unsupervised.


Orderly Salary and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports an annual median wage of $27,520 for orderlies. Those in the top 10th percentile in terms of earning power gross more than $38,630 annually, and those in the bottom 10th percentile earn less than $20,680 annually. Orderlies employed full time may also receive benefits such as health insurance coverage, paid time off, and performance or longevity-based bonuses. Employment for orderlies is expected to grow 8 percent by 2026. This growth rate is slightly above average when compared to the nationwide rate for all jobs (7 percent). As the baby-boomer generation ages and needs additional medical care, the job market for orderlies is expected to expand significantly.


Helpful Resources

Does the idea of working as an orderly appeal to you? Take a look at the following resources if you’re ready to learn more about your new prospective career:

National Association of Healthcare Assistants – the NAHCA is a large professional organization geared toward CNAs, physician assistants, and other medical assistants. Its website contains information about the CNA field, and visitors have the chance to obtain membership. Once a member, individuals are able to attend events and participate in online learning labs

Nursing Assistant Care (The Basics) – written by Jetta Fuzy, this book is perfect for anyone who intends to become an orderly. It provides valuable information on patients’ rights, cultural differences, and basic medical information. It also gives a comprehensive overview of the medical issues faced by older and infirm patients

The Home Health Aide Handbook – not all orderlies are employed by nursing homes or hospitals. Many orderlies work for home healthcare companies and provide direct medical assistance to patients inside their homes. This handbook, also written by Jetta Fuzy, provides readers with an in-depth description of what it’s like to work as a home

health aide. There are also practical tips to help those in training, as well as a glossary of common medical terms