Advice on becoming a CNA/PCA?Register Today!
- by sciencegal Aug 12, '12Hi everyone, I'm a college student who's undecided about their major. I'm considering becoming a nurse, but I'm also considering psychology or special education. If I went the nursing route I'd really like to be a psych nurse, and maybe go to grad school for psych nursing evntually. The thing is, I really need a part time job to help pay for my living expenses while in school, and a CNA/PCA job seems like a great oppurtunity to get my feet wet in the nursing field and see if nursing is what i wnt to do. They also tend to get paid better than fast food/retail/other minimum wage college kid jobs.
I'm just worried that most CNA jobs get given to people who are already in nursing school or are sure about nursing as a career. Is that the case or am I incorrect in assuming that? I'm more interested in nursing than psych/special ed, but I'm waiting to job shadow and get some opinions from people working in the field first. I'm a hard worker and would love a full-time job, I don't care about what shift it is at this point. I currently work in fast food for minimum wage, and am only getting about 8 hours a week at that job. I've also been working in a factory, but that's only for the summer because it's day shift (7-3) mon-fri and that doesn't work well with a college schedule.
Also, I'd love some advice on choosing nursing vs. psychology or special education. One thing that attracts me to psych/special ed is I'd love to work with kids with autism as an ABA therapist. But even if I became a RN I could always work as an ABA therapist if I decided it was a better fit, because it's not necessary to have a psych background, you just need a bachelors degree. I also like the idea of working with women to help with depression and other emotional issues. One thing that attracts me to nursing is the possibility of becoming a psychiatric NP and getting to help with diagnosing/prescribing. I also am not sure I want to be in a therapist or counselor role.
Sorry this was so long, can't wait to hear what you have to say.
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- Aug 12, '12 by lifeisgood2012I haven't found that to be the case at all with CNA's - not the ones that work at my facility anyway - and I doubt I am too much from the norm. Its hard to find good CNA's - and they are always leaving because the work is soo hard - so I don't think you would have an issue finding a job as a CNA, especially in long term care. I am a nurse now with very little CNA experience - and one of the things I wished I had done before becoming a nurse is working as a CNA for awhile - I am learning both skills while at work instead of "just" being a nurse.
As far as helping you decide what is best for you, I have no idea. My faith led me here. Thats what worked for me. Listen to your gut instinct. It will lead you in the right direction.
- Aug 12, '12 by redhead31293I think one thing you need to remember is in a CNA position you will be dealing with a lot of crap...literally! I don't think that most CNAs intend on becoming nurses. I know SOME do, but not the majority, I'd say. I don't think it would be hard to find a job as a CNA because there is such a high turn over rate of CNAs. The job isn't nice, and it takes a special person to be able to work as a CNA. I think it would be dangerous to become a CNA just for the money...because to be a good CNA and enjoy your job, you need compassion and understanding. I've seen CNAs yell at residents and have no respect for them at all because they have no compassion for their situation.
I think a CNA position would be good for you, not only for the experience in the health care field, but you will be working with nurses in a nursing home as well. They can give you advice and help you decide if nursing really is what you want to do.
- Aug 12, '12 by dianne777RNI think being a CNA will give you great experience in the medical field, whether in a hospital or LTC. CNA's do the foundational patient care. It sounds like you have a compassionate heart and could give the caring and dignity and respect that patients need. I say, go for it!! Also psych nursing is a great field to get into. Good luck to you!!!
- Aug 12, '12 by tigerlogicI don't think places prefer nursing students-- we're kind of a bad investment as we all leave eventually. Look into CNA but also into noncertified positions. The pay isnt as good but you work with people who are healthier and you can talk with them more, in some cases. Also, if you're interested in psych check out rehab treatment places too.
- Aug 12, '12 by NoonieRNAs a new nurse, one regret I have is that I never had the direct patient care experience that a CNA job provides. I had a great well paying server job at a high end restaraunt, money and shift flexability was too good to leave. I find myself struggling with confidence with "simple" things, like safely transferring residents, I often ask CNA advice on how they move certain people. Just the comfort level of coming into someone's room and helping with ADLs- I learned it in school and during CNA certification, but I don't have that easy confidence that experience brings. I am learning I wish I was only new to the "RN" role and already had the CNA stuff down pat- cause believe me, Nurses do perform CNA duties regularly!! Good luck in your endeavors!
PS- I just graduated and am working as a RN with a 2 year degree- I am slated to finish my bachelor's starting next summer, and in the meantime, picked up a Psych minor to finish some general requirements and have that extra knowledge, (in case I continue to a Master's?) and just to make myself a more desirable job candidate- not really necessary, but hey, doesn't rack up too much more in loans and it is so darn interesting!!
- Aug 12, '12 by PoochiewoochiePlaces don't hire CNA's right out of school. At least that's how it is where I live. They want at least one year of experience. LTC included. As for the hospitals they want one year of LTC experience before hiring you. I know a lot of people who went to school to become CNAs and they can't find jobs. The so-called schools here turn out at least 100 NAs every two months and the market is flooded so places can be picky about who they hire. They are the only ones that are making money.
The only way to get hired at LTC here is to know someone who works at one.
- Aug 13, '12 by ctmedI would choose therapy over nursing. Therapy gets way more autonomy and better hours. If you want to work directly with folks, you may want to try for Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy. Those, however, because of degree inflation are now Master's Degrees and are pretty competitive to get into. However, there are 2 year programs in both OT and PT that will get you in the field and pays comparable (if not a bit more) to RN-AAS. Check commuity colleges if you go this route (PTA/OTA). Then take the program then bridge over to MS PT or MS OT. OT/PT do work most of the areas you say you would love, including pediatrics and phych.
Now... about CNA. I am a CNA currently. I have a love/hate relatioship with it. True, you help out tons of folks. But, in my experience, the "help folks out" is sometimes more along the lines of a room service for pee/poo removal, food, and fix the TV kind of way. A CNA does get good experience towards nursing. As a therapist OR nurse, it will help you through school for the mere fact pee and poo will not bug you and you will be already familiar with how people behave with mental problems and you will not freak out. Problem is, without experience you may end up working at, shall we say, not as good facilities. This is even if you say you are going to school. In fact, some managers do not like those going to school because if you are you may be tired or less likely to be as "dedicated". You may find yourself heavily overworked, put up with snide remarks, demeaning treatment, and be a dime a dozen. Now as a therapist, you can be firm with people. But as a CNA, one complaint will earn you a trip into a DoNs office or unemployment.
Myself, I chose COTA. I still do CNA, but I can not wait. The difference between nursing and therapy is this: Nursing is DEPENDENCE and waitering, Therapy is INDEPENDENCE and teaching!
Hope that helps and gives you other options.
- Aug 13, '12 by sciencegalThanks everyone for your help, you've really given me a lot to think about. So as a CNA my best bet for employment would be in a nursing home? That wouldn't really be my first choice, but if that's what it takes to get my foot in the door than that's all right.
I hadn't really thought at all about licensed vs. unlicensed positions. Am I correct in thinking that some places will train you themselves? I'd rather avoid spending the time and money on a CNA program, since I'm already going to be taking classes at community college this fall. But if necessary to get or keep a job I could get certified (as long as it wasn't outrageously expensive).
Thanks for your perspective ctmed. A community college nearby has a COTA program, and I've thought about that route as well. I may have to look into it more and shadow someone, because OT does sound interesting.