Orderly Vs. Nurse

Caring for patients and their environment is the key responsibility of orderlies and nurses, though their focuses, degree requirements, and salaries are different. Learn more about what each of these health professionals do.

Comparing Orderlies to Nurses

Orderlies and nurses are members of the health care profession, but they differ in their interactions with patients. Orderlies assist more with maintaining the environment around the patients, while nurses focus almost entirely on providing patient care.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Orderlies High school Diploma $26,690 8%
Nurses Bachelor's Degree $68,450 (registered nurses) 15% (registered nurses)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Orderlies vs. Nurses

Orderlies receive little education on monitoring patient health. Nurses, however, go to college to learn how to take a patient's blood pressure, aid in diagnostic testing, and hand out medications, among other duties. Similarly, while orderlies must work in a healthcare facility, nurses may go to the patient's home and care for them in a familiar environment. Both may work long hours and serve various shifts throughout the day to provide the care patients need.


These individuals may work in hospitals, mental health facilities, or geriatric homes. They care for patients by helping them get to treatments, tests, and operations, utilizing wheelchairs or stretchers. When lifting patients out of bed, off stretchers, or to and from surgical tables, it is important that orderlies meet certain standards to maintain their safety and the safety of the patients. Similarly, they are responsible for cleaning patients' rooms, common areas, and hospital equipment.

Job responsibilities of an orderly include:

  • Stocking blood bags, gloves, needles, and other medical supplies
  • Disposing of hazardous materials, such as needles, glass, and biomaterials
  • Delivering meals to patients and assisting them with eating when necessary
  • Aiding during security calls for unruly or dangerous individuals


Nurses may work in various units of a hospital, such as neonatal, trauma, or burn wards. They may also work for hospice or within a patient's home to provide close, personalized care. No matter where they work, these healthcare providers are responsible for tracking a patient's vital signs, such as heartrate and brain activity. Because of this, knowledge of how to use hospital equipment, like heart monitors and dialysis machines, is necessary.

Job responsibilities of a nurse include:

  • Ensuring patients get the proper type and dosage of their medications
  • Helping patients and their families through difficult news
  • Recording a patient's symptoms to relay them to the doctor
  • Bandaging or stitching small wounds

Related Careers

For those curious about a career as an orderly, a position as an EMT or paramedic may be worth a look, since both provide care and transport for ill or hurt people. Additionally, if someone is interested in a career as a nurse, a position as a physician assistant may be suitable, since both work closely with patients and aim to improve their health.

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