Nurse Aide Program

What Nursing Aides Do*

Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants help provide basic care for patients in hospitals and residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.


Nursing aides, sometimes called nursing attendants or nursing assistants, provide basic care and help with basic living activities. They typically do the following:

  • Clean and bathe patients or residents
  • Help patients use the toilet and dress
  • Turn, reposition, and transfer patients between beds and wheelchairs
  • Listen to and record patients’ health concerns and report that information to nurses
  • Measure patients’ vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature
  • Serve meals and help patients eat

In nursing homes, aides and attendants are often the principal caregivers. They have more contact with residents than other members of the staff. Because some residents stay in a nursing home for months or years, aides and attendants may develop close, caring relationships with their patients.

Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants work as part of a healthcare team under the supervision of licensed practical or vocational nurses or registered nurses.


The median annual wage for nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants was $24,010 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,790, and the top 10 percent earned more than $34,580.

Most nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants work full time. Because nursing homes and hospitals provide care at all hours, nursing aides and orderlies may need to work nights, weekends, and holidays.

*According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics