Orderly Vs. CNA

Both orderlies and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are important in the daily routine of medical patients. However, the level of care each is trained to provide is different, and that is the subject of this article.

Comparing Orderly to CNA

A certified nursing assistant (CNA) becomes qualified to work in nursing homes or hospitals through a specialized training program offered at high schools or postsecondary settings. Orderlies also work in nursing homes or hospitals and get most of their training on the job, therefore a CNA has more responsibility than an orderly.

Job Title Minimum Education Required Median Salary Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Orderly High School Diploma $26,000 (2017)** 8%
CNA State-Approved Education Program $26,590 (2016)* (nursing assistants) 11% (nursing assistants)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Responsibilities of an Orderly vs. a CNA

An orderly and a CNA are both on the front lines of medical care in a nursing home or hospital. They interact closely with patients to meet their basic needs for comfort and communicate issues to the attending medical staff. Each state has criteria in place for these positions, but in general an orderly may work at a facility with training provided by its staff while a CNA must pass an exam and be listed on a state registry before they can be employed. There is overlap in responsibilities, such as physically helping patients move and take care of bodily functions, but a CNA may also dispense medication depending on state laws and is more likely to be the primary care giver in a nursing home.


Hospitals are the largest employers of orderlies, and shifts often require work at night. An orderly is the person a patient in a hospital usually sees when they need to move whether from the bed to the restroom or from their room to a medical testing site. Orderlies maneuver wheelchairs and assist patients in and out of bed. Orderlies are also important to the facility as a whole, since they restock supplies, clean rooms, and sterilize equipment.

Job responsibilities of an Orderly include:

  • Changing linens on beds following a schedule or if they become soiled
  • Transporting machinery to rooms for nurses to use in monitoring vital signs
  • Documenting the transfer of patient samples to the proper personnel
  • Taking the deceased to the morgue


Nursing homes are the largest employers of certified nursing assistants. CNAs interact daily with residents and are responsible for taking vital signs and communicating with doctors or nurses who make rounds less frequently. They also monitor dietary needs and insure any dietary restrictions are accommodated. A CNA attends to all the basic daily needs of patients from dressing and bathing to eating and moving from room to room. They also interact with family members to keep them updated on the patient's condition.

Job responsibilities of a CNA include:

  • Cleaning or placing a catheter as directed by medical staff
  • Monitoring medical devices such as oxygen suppliers or IV bags
  • Documenting information about wounds or bruises and patient behavior or complaints
  • Preparing patients for medical treatment by shaving or cleaning areas on the body

Related Careers

If you are interested in the organizational aspect of the job of an orderly, then arranging equipment for use by a dentist as a dental assistant may also be a job you would like. If you prefer a close relationship that supports the health of people, then the job of fitness instructor may be as satisfying as the job of a CNA.

Next: View Schools

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?