Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants, are responsible for the care of patients who are physically or mentally ill, disabled, and injured. They work in hospitals, nursing homes, and as home health aides under the supervision of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and other medical staff. Nursing aides, also known as nursing assistants or certified nursing assistants, fulfill duties as taking patient vital signs, answering calls for help, and helping patients eat, bathe, and dress. They may also be responsible for observing patients’ physical and mental changes and reporting their findings to the medical staff.
In nursing homes, aides often have more day-to-day contact with residents compared to other medical staff and are often the principal caregivers. Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants may assist patients with getting out of bed, and walking or escorting them throughout the healthcare facility. In some settings, aides may assist other medical staff with storage, supplies, and setting up equipment.
- Most nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants are employed in nursing homes and hospitals.
- Aides who work in nursing home facilities are required by the federal government to pass a competency evaluation.
- Certification is available for those interested in becoming a certified nursing assistance (CNA).
- Individuals interested in this career path should be in good health, patient, emotionally stable, and enjoy caring for others.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment in this field to grow faster than average for all occupations.
Work Environment for Nursing Aides, Orderlies, and Attendants
Professionals employed as nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants work in many different types of healthcare settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, clinics, and mental health facilities, or in private homes as home health aides. Since aides spend a lot of time walking and standing, their work may be physically demanding at times. They should be trained and follow the correct procedures to avoid accidents and injuries. Nursing aides also perform duties such as changing bed pans and soiled bed sheets, which may be unpleasant to some people.
Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants in full-time positions typically work 40 hours a week, which may include weekends, evenings and holidays. In mental health facilities, aides will be sometimes be required to care for patients with violent behavior due to mental illness.
Education, Training, and Licensing
Most employers require nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants to have a high school diploma. Many high schools and vocational/technical schools offer training programs, as do some community colleges and nursing facilities. Coursework typically includes anatomy and physiology, nutrition, proper body mechanics, mental health issues, disease and infection control, hygiene skills, interpersonal skills, and patient rights. Many employers also provide training for new hires. In addition, aides can attend workshops, or individual classes and lectures.
While many aides, orderlies, and attendants learn their skills while working on the job, those who work in nursing home facilities are required by the federal government to pass a competency evaluation, which allows them to earn the designation of certified nursing assistant (CAN). Additional requirements vary by state, so prospective nursing aides should check with their state board for more information.
To gain entrance into a certification program, individuals need to be able to perform basic math, reading comprehension, and writing tasks. Some programs require an entrance examination. After completion of the program, proof of certification will be required within the state that an aide is seeking employment. Employers also require that applicants be able to follow written and verbal instructions as well as specific protocols.
Individuals interested in this career should be in good health, patient, emotionally and mentally stable, and enjoy helping others. Most employers require a criminal background check, and in some cases, a physical exam and disease test may be required. Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants need to be able to work well in teams, have good interpersonal skills and be able to perform routine – and sometimes repetitive – tasks. While job advancement opportunities for aides may be limited, many choose to later become licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, or medical assistants. These careers require additional education and training.
Most nursing aide, orderly and attendant jobs are often entry-level opportunities for individuals who are in college or high school. These occupations allow individuals to gain valuable healthcare industry experience, which can help them pursue other health-related careers.
Employment Figures, Projections, Outlook, and Earnings
Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants held approximately 1,438,010 jobs in 2009, according to research published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Most of these positions were in nursing homes, hospitals, and community-care facilities. Other positions were with home healthcare agencies and local government.
Employment in this field is forecasted to grow faster than average compared to other occupations, due to the growing demand of an increasingly elderly population and the general demand for healthcare services.
BLS records for May 2009 indicate that the average annual wage for nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants was $24,980. The lowest 10% earned about $17,510, while the middle 50% earned between $10,490 and $28,990. Those in the highest 10% bracket made approximately $33,970 annually.