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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.