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What Does a Hospital Attendant Do?

By K. Kinsella
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A hospital attendant assists trained medical professionals in a hospital or medical center. These roles are often entry-level positions although some of the people who take on these jobs receive on-the-job basic medical training while others may have previously trained as nurses. Attendants are often referred to as orderlies and their precise job responsibilities vary from employer to employer.

Typically, a hospital attendant is responsible for transporting patients to wards and surgeries although critically injured patients are normally transported by paramedics. In many hospitals, attendants assist housekeepers with changing bed linen and providing patients with meals. Some attendants are also required to clean the wards and dispense medication to the patients. Rather than being assigned specific responsibilities, these workers are normally given daily assignments that are based upon the hospital's operational needs.

While many of the people employed in these jobs receive no job specific training, others are required to have some medical knowledge. These individuals may be required to change bandages, apply ointments and check patient's vital signs. To perform these tasks, a hospital attendant must attend a series of training classes that may be offered in-house or at a local community college or university. Regulatory boards in many countries organize certification and licensing courses for orderlies or medical attendants and many facilities require applicants to have acquired one of these licenses.

Critically ill patients normally have to remain under the care of physicians or nurses but a medical attendant may have a role in supervising other inpatients. Generally, these individuals remain in the wards at all times and alert physicians if a patient's condition deteriorates. Since these individuals have often received little or no medical treatment, they make determinations about the patient's condition by relying on data from pulse monitoring machines and other devices. Aside from altering medical personnel to a patient's condition, the attendant may take steps to make such an individual more comfortable until the trained medic arrives on the scene. These steps may include providing people with extra pillows or blankets or even a glass of water.

Some medical facilities provide care for the elderly and chronically ill. Many of these patients need help with day-to-day activities such as bathing and dressing. A hospital attendant may be required to assist individuals with these tasks. Typically, attendants receive some basic on-the-job instruction before they are able to physically assist patients. Additionally, many facilities require both skilled and unskilled workers to attend first aid training courses during which techniques such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation are demonstrated.

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Discussion Comments

By AnswerMan — On Jan 28, 2014

Our local hospital rarely hires anyone to perform most of these duties. Instead, they rely on a large group of volunteers. Some answer phones in the waiting rooms, some transport people to treatement rooms and some sit at the front desk and give directions.

I thought about doing some volunteer work myself as a hospital attendant, since I only live about 6 blocks from the facility. I think there's a training program you have to go through first before you can do anything at the hospital, though.

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