Nurse Aide vs CNA: What’s the difference between Assistants, Aides and Orderlies?
Nurse Aide vs CNA vs Orderly?Although they share some of the same core responsibilities and are all front-line healthcare providers, Nursing Assistant, Nursing Aide and Orderly careers are not totally identical. Ultimately, they differ in terms of educational requirements, assigned tasks, amount of interaction with patients and salary. Here are the career outlines for each role, highlighting their differences:
A Nursing Assistant is tasked with helping patients with basic care and activities of daily living under the direction of registered nurses or licensed vocational nurses. Examples of the work Nursing Assistants perform include cleaning and bathing patients, assisting patients use the bathroom, and assisting them in dressing and eating.
Additionally, Nursing Assistants often listen to and record patients’ health records or concerns and report this information to nurses or other immediate supervisor. Certified Nursing Assistants (or “CNAs”) will also support patient care by taking vital signs, physically moving, turning and transferring patients between beds and wheelchairs as needed. If appropriately certified, they may be able to help patients give themselves their own medications.
To become a Nursing Assistant, professionals are required to complete a state-approved education program and to pass their state’s designated competency exam. After passing this exam, Nursing Assistants are placed on the state’s registry. Typically, Certified Nursing Assistant programs can be pursued through community colleges, technical schools, hospitals and even nursing homes and are a prerequisite to gaining employment in a nursing home.
Overall, Nursing Assistants have similar educational requirements to Nursing Aides, but more so than Orderlies. This means they are compensated at a higher rate than orderlies due to the expanded set of responsibilities they oversee like placing catheters and monitoring medical devices.
A career as a Nursing Aide involves providing basic care and assistance to patients who are ill, injured or who are experiencing other health-related symptoms or conditions. Nursing Aides also help patients complete tasks associated with daily life including bathing, eating, using the bathroom, taking medications, etc. Always working under the direct supervision of either Registered Nurses (RNs), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) or Vocational Nurses, these professionals spend time cleaning equipment, stocking supplies, changing linens and building meaningful relationships with patients.
Similar to those labeled as “Nursing Assistants”, prospective Nursing Aides must enroll in and complete a state-approved education program. These programs are offered through vocational schools, community colleges, hospitals and nursing homes. To best prepare learners for real-life scenarios, these educational programs involve both in-class instruction and clinical work. After a program has been completed but before being employed, these professionals may be asked to take a competency exam and complete additional “on the job” training to learn all procedures and protocols specific to the employer.
Realistically, Nursing Aide and Nursing Assistant careers are the same. Their difference in name stems from the state in which a professional practices. While some states will refer to this role as that of a “Nursing Aide,” others advertise these opportunities as “Nursing Assistant” positions.
The responsibilities of an Orderly include cleaning and sterilizing treatment areas, transporting patients from one room to another, providing patients with routine personal care, changing linens, stocking supplies and restraining combative patients when necessary. A supervising Physician may also ask an Orderly to shave surgical areas prior to a procedure, assist with the application of a cast or to complete various other entry-level healthcare requests.
To enter this career in healthcare individuals must earn at least a high school diploma. On-site training will also be required before a professional may practice in the field. No formal credential are required to enter this career, but most likely employers will require Orderlies to be Basic Life Support (BLS) certified, which includes being trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Overall, Orderlies help to move and prep patients at the direction of senior healthcare providers. As there are very few requirements for this field, an Orderly is not responsible for actions that may harm the patient, such as administering medications. While an Orderly can start almost immediately, both CNAs and Nursing Aides must take more extensive training and pass state examinations before they can be employed. Of course, this means that orderlies are paid the least out of these three career fields.