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I'm assuming your going for your BSN? If so then I would say no, you can work as a CNA while going to school and get a good look at nursing and what goes on in healthcare in general. You will also have healthcare experience which will help you get your first nursing job, and believe me in this economy you will need that additional help.
It's a good idea to get a look at nursing, a friend of mine held onto her polyanna view of nursing up until her first job, which she is now realizing can be stressful and brutal (as many professions can be, especially in healthcare). Also, being a CNA will help you as an RN because you will be working alongside CNA's, and there are a lot of nurses and others who don't understand or respect CNA's and thus don't get as much help from them.
I don't know about anywhere else, but in my location you have to be a certified nursing assistant, or PCA or PCT...whatever they call them. That or an LPN. For the program I graduated from, you actually had to have experience working, at least 6 months in the medical field. So we had people who were CNA's and the like, and surgical techs, lab techs and RT's. Then there was the bridge program for LPN-RN and Paramedic-RN. I hear tell they're starting a CMA-RN now too, which I'll be interested in seeing how that pans out.
If you don't want to take a CNA course, you can be considered a "student nurse" after you finish your fundamentals semester of the BSN, which is basically a student doing CNA work. Either way, doing it like this, or doing a weekend CNA course, is a good idea because you'll then be considered an internal applicant when you apply for an RN position after graduation.
No way! I wish I would have pursued a CNA certification before or during nursing school. If you are in Michigan, you can become a CNA after taking and passing your fundamentals in nursing school--no CNA courses required, just special paperwork is all.
The nursing school I am slated to attend teaches you how to be a CNA (do those particular jobs) within the first semester of nursing school. Then after the first semester you can become a nurse extern, a student nurse working at a hospital doing, basically, CNA type jobs. So in this scenario, if you are about to be or are already in the nursing program there isn't much reason to become a CNA.
But, if you aren't in a BSN program or nursing school yet, I'd say go for it.
We have to become CNAs before we can even apply to our school. Great idea, because it gets your foot in the door and teaches you how to do basic care. I'm not working as a CNA only because I don't have to right now, but it was invaluable information.