Those working in healthcare support occupations provide essential care to patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities. Find out how you earn a career in a healthcare support occupation, as well as relevant salary and career data for the profession.

In order to provide proper care for patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and residential care facilities, nurses work extremely long and difficult hours. Fortunately, nurses and doctors can turn to individuals in healthcare support occupations in order to provide an additional set of hands. Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants help provide basic care for patients who need a wide range of services. Those who work in healthcare support occupations can make a meaningful difference in patients' lives by providing them with basic services, and treating them with compassion and care.

What healthcare support occupations do

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare support professionals help patients complete essential tasks for living and provide them with basic care. Although specific job tasks may vary, nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants typically perform these basic job responsibilities:

  • Help patients with basic hygiene, including bathing and dressing
  • Help patients use the toilet
  • Help patients reposition themselves, or move in and out of bed or into a wheelchair
  • Report information to nurses, including patient concerns and vital signs
  • Help patients prepare meals and eat

According to the BLS, some individuals working in healthcare support occupations are allowed to dispense medication depending on their level of training and the state in which they work. Because those working in healthcare support occupations are often the primary caregivers in nursing homes, they often form close relationships with the patients they serve. Therefore, the BLS notes that nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants should have a high level of compassion and patience in order to work with patients who may be sick, injured, or elderly.

How to become a nursing aide, orderly, or attendant

In order to become a nursing aide or attendant, students generally need to earn a postsecondary certificate or award. According to the BLS, orderlies are generally only required to have a high school diploma and some experience. At healthcare support occupation schools, students learn the fundamentals of basic nursing care and complete supervised clinical work.

Once a student completes their healthcare support occupation education online (or at a traditional school), they may need to pass a competency exam. Some states required licensure as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), and students interested in healthcare support occupations should research their state-specific licensing requirements.

Nursing assistant salary and career outlook

If you are interested in becoming a nursing assistant or health care support worker, take a look at the expected job growth and potential salary you might expect in the coming years:

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Nursing Assistants1,419,920$30,720
2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,


Nursing Assistants, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed July 2019,

Nursing Assistants, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistspoics, accessed July 2019,

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