Does being a CNA really help if you want to become a nurse?

  1. I have been wondering about this for a while, people on here say that being a CNA will be beneficial if you want to be a nurse. But my concern is that if all CNA do is do the dirty work that the nurse's don't do. They can't pass meds, they don't really learn that much about patient care like a medical assistant and they make the lowest pay. Then why is it that people tell me to take CNA first, the only thing that they really learn is how to give shots. That's the only thing that has to do with nursing as a whole. Now I know that as a nurse you will have to do some dirty things but you would think that medical assisting would be the first step to being a nurse.
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  2. 31 Comments

  3. by   TexasPediRN
    Quote from pumpkin1984
    That's the only thing that has to do with nursing as a whole.
    Honey, you are completely wrong...

    Let me try to explain a few things and clear up some misconceptions that you have..

    A Medical Assistant assists the Doctor.

    A CNA assists the nurse.

    I was a Student nursing assistant before becoming a nurse. I dont regret one day of the 'dirty work'. I am a darn good nurse now because of it.

    I saw a lot, I learned a lot, and since I was a student nurse, most nurses let me assist with things such as dressing changes, starting an IV, etc.

    The biggest thing I learned from being a nursing assistant was organization. Within 45 minutes I could have vitals done and charted on 15-18 patients. All just mine. I'd also have half of them toileted.

    The other students in my class who werent CNAs were not prepared for a rude awakening. In nursing school you have 1-2 patients tops. Its not like that in the real world. Organization is key.

    Not to mention, I learned how the floor ran, how to interact with other nurses/aides/drs/secretaries/etc, and I learned a lot about patient care.

    To address a few things you mentioned:
    CNA'd do not give shots. At least not anywhere that I have ever seen in the hospital setting..

    Everyday in nursing is a dirty day. If you dont want that, I suggest you rethink nursing. If you find a patient covered in feces, are you going to leave it and wait for the CNA to come along? I'd hope not.
    You have to feed people, change them, bath them, and nurse them back to health. Each one of those tasks are beyond important.
    Feeding a person allows you to assess ability to swallow, bathing allows for assessment of skin integreity/ breakdown, and all of them allow for you to talk with a person to see if they are alert and oriented.

    I dont pass meds all day. I'm coughed on, spit on, I clean up poop, vomit, urine, blood, you name it.

    I love my job, and wouldnt change any aspect of it.

    If you do continue to choose nursing, I wish you luck..
  4. by   squirtle
    I am finishing up my second term (of four) in an ADN program. I am beginning a job as a tech this week. From spending time in the hospital during clinicals, I thought I could gain much knowledge from working with patients before becomming an RN. You learn how to interact with the patients and their families, dealing with families was always nerve wracking for me in the clinical setting. You also learn all of the other basic skills such as turning the patients- which isn't as easy as it seemed to be when they are yelling out in pain and discomfort, handling drains, monitoring I&O, giving baths, etc, etc. You learn the in's and out's of how things are run on a unit and how to handle the various staff- the same things you will have to learn when you become a nurse. I hope to learn as much as I can in my new job and hope it puts me a step ahead when I become an RN. I also hope that the nurses will teach me a thing or two since I will be in ICU and will see so much. Also, you can't always assume that you are going to have a CNA or tech available when you are a nurse... I am sure there will be times when you will have to do the "dirty work" yourself. Just my thoughts...
  5. by   MisMatch
    I am currently working as a nursing assistant at an ALF while attending school, and will start clinicals next month. I believe the experience will help me quite a bit once I get into clinicals. A lot of clinicals are done at nursing homes, and I've learned a great deal about interacting with dementia patients, am proficient at taking vitals, am comfortable interacting with a variety of personalities, and have sharpened my critical thinking skills related to noticing changes in patients that require attention. In addition, I am comfortable dressing and bathing a total stranger, am learning the value and necessity of being a team member, have learned to manage time and prioritize patient needs and am not overwhelmed by someone covered in urine, feces or vomit.

    I expect to be overwhelmed by the amount of information I need to learn in clinicals. Hopefully my experience as a nursing assistant will allow me to be a bit more comfortable in a health care setting. I also believe it has given me a more realistic understanding of all that nursing entails.
  6. by   dorselm
    I was an accountant for 8 years before I decided to go to nursing school. Before deciding to go to school, I took a job as a CNA which I still do now. When I'm in class and we are talking about wound care, I know exactly what they're talking about because I see it every weekend where I work. I get to assist in putting on wound vacs which is very interesting and I see all kinds of decubitus ulcers from Stage 1 to 4. Becoming a CNA has allowed me to feel comfortable with walking into a patient's room and talking with them. I know how to turn a patient and to clean them. I also learned basic assessment skills as a CNA because who do you think is always reporting to a nurse when something goes wrong with the patient? The CNA interacts more with the patient so that person can tell the nurse when there is an obvious change in a patient's condition. Also, working as a CNA, I get to see just how hard, back breaking and stressful the job can be. I will know how to treat them and not take them for granted.
    A CNA will never give injections or administer any other med. I can't even put a topical cream on a patient if its prescribed. However, I knew how to put a foley into a person before I entered the program because the nurses where I work love to show me things. Also, when we first started clinical I was very comfortable with going into a patient's room and introducing myself. The site of urine, feces, vomit or any other bodily fluid does not bother me. I don't enjoy seeing it but I can clean a person with no problems which is why I am able to help out my fellow students who have never had healthcare experience. So is having CNA experience mandatory? No, there are thousands of nurses who have never had prior CNA experience and go on to become good nurses. On the other hand, being a CNA has made clinicals alot easier because I am comfortable with seeing a person naked and with caring for no matter what condition they are in. The site of bodily fluids don't bother me and I can also prioritize my day so that I know which patients need for for first.
    P.S. In nursing there is no such thing as "dirty work". No matter what the situation if you are going to be in nursing you are providing care whether you are administering medicine or cleaning a person's behind.
  7. by   RNperdiem
    The people skills for dealing with inpatients and the familiarity you gain with how hospitals work is invaluable.
    Who says nurses always have nursing assistants available to do "dirty work"?
    There is no delegating that work to nursing assistants where I work.
    My brother is a 3rd year medical student, and says his experience as a nursing assistant on a rehab floor was very helpful when he started clinicals.
  8. by   Piki
    MeghanRN is right on the money. I became a CNA first before enrolling in nursing school. I didn't work very long at it b/c we moved and then I started nursing school, but it helped tremendously learning basic nursing care and interaction with the patients. Those in my nursing program that were previously CNA's were much more comfortable in clinicals (esp that first semester when basically all of our clinicals is spent doing CNA activities - bed, bath, vitals, maybe basic dressing changes). I'll never forget the RN/MSN that taught our CNA course - since most of us were going into nursing for our RN or LPN eventually - she said "don't you ever think you'll be too good to wipe someone's behind when you're a nurse" and she is absolutely right. I don't think there's a shift that goes by that I'm not doing some sort of "dirty" work. It's all part of the part and parcel that comes with nursing.

    And CNA's do not administer shots either. (MA's may, and definitely LPNs and RNs).
  9. by   RNDreamer
    Your years experience says "Many years in home care". Are you a Home Health Aide? As an HHA I did alot of "dirty work"


    Quote from pumpkin1984
    I have been wondering about this for a while, people on here say that being a CNA will be beneficial if you want to be a nurse. But my concern is that if all CNA do is do the dirty work that the nurse's don't do. They can't pass meds, they don't really learn that much about patient care like a medical assistant and they make the lowest pay. Then why is it that people tell me to take CNA first, the only thing that they really learn is how to give shots. That's the only thing that has to do with nursing as a whole. Now I know that as a nurse you will have to do some dirty things but you would think that medical assisting would be the first step to being a nurse.
  10. by   showbizrn
    Here we go:

    You get practice in the following areas:

    1. Making beds
    2. Bathing patients
    3. Assisting with Mobility transfers (i.e., from bed to wheelchair, from sitting to standing positions, etc)
    4. Communication skills
    5. Monitoring Vital Signs
    6. Organizational skills for routine hospital unit-based patient care
    7. Observations of the DO's and DON'T's of RN practice :trout:

    MORE?

    Can't think of any right now.

    Showbizrn (A RN who wasn't a CNA first and with NO regrets! )
  11. by   Becca608
    Personally, I am planning on trying to find an assistant position to work while I finish up my last semester of nursing school. I've been told that not having worked in a hospital won't hurt me, but I agree with Pumpkin1984. Organization is my biggest challenge in patient care and my classmates that have moved into nursing assistant positions over the course of nursing school have become far better organized than those of us that haven't
  12. by   ChocoholicRN
    Before even applying to nursing school, I took a job as a tech at a hospital to make sure it was what I wanted. I am now beginning my first nursing job and am thankful for every day that I worked as a tech. I learned how how to communicate with patients, their family, the unit secretary, and most importantly, nurses. I watched nurses do dressing changes on pressure ulcers, learned how to hang IVs and where to give shots, learned how to do basic dressing changes and change an entire ostomy appliance. I also eventually learned what to look for in a patient when they had a fever or were going septic, how to care for someone when they passed, how to respond to a code, all of this just from working as a tech. Where I used to work I could have up to 16 patients a day, so I learned a lot about time management and prioritizing. This has helped me tremendously in my new job because I work on a very busy unit with a higher patient load than I expected. I highly suggest you take a job as a CNA or tech, you will not regret it.
  13. by   SharonH, RN
    The first step to becoming a nurse is finding a decent school and apply. There is no tiered process to becoming a nurse and becoming either a CNA or a MA first is not necessary and IMO not that beneficial. You will learn basic tasks that are common to both nursing and CNAs as well as organizational skills which are crucial to bedside nursing. However you will learn those tasks eventually anyway, so why waste time becoming a CNA "on your way" to becoming a nurse? It seems like you are adding an unnecessary layer to the whole process and it is difficult enough on its own.
  14. by   jlcole45
    YES! Not only do you get a realistic view of health care you are practicing the basics of nursing. I learned so much more working as an aide in the hospital while in school.


    Good luck.

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