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What does an Orderly do?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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An orderly is a nursing assistant who ensures the comfort, safety, and general well-being of patients in hospitals and mental health facilities. He or she might help a person get out of bed, bathe, get dressed, and move around. An orderly often serves meals and assists patients with eating and drinking when necessary. In addition, he or she might prepare an individual for an examination or surgery. Orderlies frequently communicate with caregivers, nurses, and physicians about the condition of patients and the most appropriate treatment plans.

Many hospital patients are too ill or injured to perform basic, everyday tasks. Orderlies help patients with bathing, going to the bathroom, dressing, eating, sitting, and standing. An orderly may perform other tasks to enhance a patient's hospital stay, such as helping an individual get into a wheelchair and taking him or her for a walk around the facility. Orderlies often form close friendships with their patients, engaging in casual conversation while performing the duties of the job. In some hospitals, orderlies may be qualified to administer medication, clean and dress wounds, and perform other basic nursing functions.

Orderlies in psychiatric wards may perform many of the same tasks as hospital orderlies, as well as maintaining the safety and security of patients and staff. Some patients in mental health facilities can be quite unstable and display unpredictable, violent behaviors. It is usually the responsibility of orderlies to control violent outbursts, restrain patients when necessary, and report situations to psychologists and hospital management.

To become an orderly, a person is usually required to hold at least a high school diploma. Some hospitals prefer to hire orderlies who have completed nursing assistant training programs at community colleges or vocational schools. New orderlies may be required to attend training classes offered by their employers to learn about the basic principles of the job, how to handle different types of patients, and what to do in case of an emergency. In addition, orderlies generally receive informal, on-the-job training by experienced professionals.

As with most health care professions, there is generally a very strong demand for skilled orderlies in hospitals and psychiatric wards. Orderlies who know how to perform basic nursing tasks, such as checking and recording vital signs, are in especially high demand to take some of the strain off of busy doctors and nurses. With enough experience and continuing education, an orderly may be able to pursue a career in nursing or another medical profession.

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Discussion Comments

By anon315922 — On Jan 26, 2013

What does you call someone who moves the patient when the patient reaches the hospital? For example, they will move the patient from the car to a wheelchair or stretcher.

By anon265941 — On May 03, 2012

I am 16 years old and want to go into medicine when I am older. (possibly neonatal surgeon or anesthesiology) and this seems like a great place to start off while I'm young. Any ideas if any hospital would accept a 16 year old orderly?

By backdraft — On Jun 27, 2011

@Ivan83 - It depends a lot on what kind of environment your are trying to work in. Generally, the nicer the hospital the greater the level of qualification they will require. However, a smaller hospital or an environment that is particularly hard up for orderlies will hire people with only a high school diploma.

If you want to increase your chances, consider getting some cheap or even free medical training. You can take a course in CPR and first aid. You can familiarize yourself with some of the terms and equipment used in health care environments. You can make sure that your appearance is clean and presentable. These are all some simple things you can do to increase your chance of getting the job. Good luck! The world needs more good orderlies

By Ivan83 — On Jun 25, 2011

I am interested in breaking into the health care industry and becoming an orderly seems like a great place to start. Does any body have any advice on how to find orderly jobs and what kind of credentials they are looking for?

By ZsaZsa56 — On Jun 22, 2011

I was once unfortunate enough to spend an extended period in the hospital. I received great care across the board, but it was often the orderlies who were the kindest and most helpful to me during this trying time.

The was one young woman named Faith who is possibly the sweetest person I've ever met. Every time I saw her she had a big smile and a kind word to cheer me up. She told me about her family and I told her about hers. Over the course of my stay we came to know each other pretty well and I felt like she really cared about me and my treatment. I her kindness probably contributed as much to my recovery as the medication I was prescribed.

By gravois — On Jun 19, 2011

Much like nurses, orderlies are the unsung heroes of hospitals. They are responsible for so much of the mundane or behind the scenes work that it takes to run a hospital smoothly. Doctors might have all the specialized knowledge, but it is frequently orderlies who are responsible for the most important jobs. If you went to a hospital without orderlies you would notice their absence immediately.

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