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Nursing Aide and Orderly Job Description, Career as a Nursing Aide and Orderly, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: High school

Salary: Average—$10.09 per hour

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Nursing aides and orderlies help nurses care for patients by doing routine tasks. They help keep patients comfortable and tend to their basic needs. Aides and orderlies generally spend most of their time with patients, carrying meal trays to them, answering call lights when patients signal for help, and helping to move them when necessary. Aides and orderlies make beds, give baths and massages, and fill water pitchers and ice bags. They may also perform routine tests, such as taking a patient's temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. Sometimes aides and orderlies do light cleaning, distribute linens, set up equipment, deliver messages, and assemble meal trays for patients who are on special diets.

Many nursing aides and orderlies work in hospitals. An increasing number work in nursing homes and long-term care facilities for elderly people. Some work with psychiatric patients and are called psychiatric aides.

Some nursing aides are hospice workers. They provide terminally ill patients with services that range from companionship to personal care. Most hospice programs offer patients care in either their homes or in a residential facility, so the hospice nursing aide may work in either environment.

Nursing aides assist with many tasks including recording information about changes in patients' conditions. (© Julie Fisher Photography Limited/zefa/Corbis.)

Education and Training Requirements

Often there are no specific educational requirements for these jobs, but in many cases a high school diploma is required. Aides and orderlies are usually trained on the job under the supervision of a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse. Training generally lasts from one week to three months. Some high schools, vocational institutions, community colleges, and nursing care facilities also offer courses. Volunteer jobs in hospitals are good experience, as are courses in home nursing and first aid.

Federal regulations require all nursing aides who work in nursing homes that receive Medicare and Medicaid to complete a state-approved training program, pass a competency test, and receive certification from the state in which they work. The training program must be at least seventy-five hours, including sixteen hours of supervised clinical training, and be state-approved. Each year, certified nursing aides must complete twelve hours of continuing education to maintain their certification. Hospice workers almost always must be listed on the state's Nurse Aide Registry, which requires passing the state competency test. In addition, hospice nursing aides usually have specialized instruction in caring for terminally ill patients.

Getting the Job

Apply directly to the hospitals or nursing homes in which you want to work. Contact hospices in your area if you choose hospice work. You can also check newspaper want ads and job banks on the Internet. State and private employment agencies sometimes list openings for nursing aides and orderlies.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Aides and orderlies can advance with further education. Some train to be licensed practical nurses while working part time as aides or orderlies. Others may learn to operate specialized equipment, such as electrocardiograph machines.

The number of positions is expected to grow faster than average through 2014 as the elderly population increases and the demand for health care services continues to grow. High turnover in this occupation also creates frequent openings.

Working Conditions

Nursing aides and orderlies generally work forty hours a week. This usually includes some night or weekend work. The surroundings are generally quiet and clean. Aides perform many tasks and may spend much of their day standing and walking. They often have unpleasant duties and may have to deal with uncooperative patients. However, helping others can be a rewarding experience.

Since they work with sick people, aides and orderlies need to be patient and understanding. They should be healthy and responsible. They should also be able to stay calm in emergencies.

Where to Go for More Information

American Nurses Association
8515 Georgia Ave., Ste. 400
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(800) 274-4ANA

National League for Nursing
61 Broadway, 33rd Fl.
New York, NY 10006
(800) 669-1656

National Network of Career Nursing Assistants
3577 Easton Rd.
Norton, OH 44203
(330) 825-9342

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
1700 Diagonal Rd., Ste. 625
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 837-1500

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary with experience and place of employment. In 2004 the median salary for nursing aides and orderlies was $10.09 per hour. Benefits usually include health insurance and paid holidays and vacations.

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