When I was a student (long long time ago lol) I worked as an aid in an acute hospital on Friday and Saturday 3-11 shift. I was going for a BSN at the time and the hospitals would let you work as an aid once you finished med surg in your curriculum. To get the aid job, I volunteered in the ED for about 4 mos. to kinda get my foot in the door. The nurse's aid job helped my beat out hundreds of applicants to a student nurse externship once that opened up. All those experiences helped me land my first nursing job and I had recruiters calling me when I graduated (I know this doesn't happen any longer but it will help you get a job vs the applicant with no experience- and no, they won't consider your clinicals to be experience). I really honed my foley skills as an aid and depending where you work and what they allow aids to do, you will be able to excel in some of the more basic skills of nursing.
Another tip, go make friends with the HR people in the hospital you are working in as an aid. Don't be shy. Talk to everyone. I worked as a Resource Pool aid. This means I floated between Telemetry, Med Surg, and Oncology. Sometimes I floated to another hospital in that chain. I talked to the managers on all these units and did a good job when I was there.
Main Idea: If they like you they will want you to work there as a nurse.
It is so competitive now days that sometimes just knowing someone and having friends is the way to get hired later as an RN.
So to answer your question, no you don't have to be an aid before nursing school
, you can work on getting a good gpa and then do the aid thing while in school. If you need to work anyways and the pay is better than what you would make otherwise, then yes you can go ahead and be an aid while doing your pre reqs. Either way, it will help you.
P.S. I had a newborn and two toddlers in nursing school. You can do it! I thought poor me until I met a girl with 5 kids and doing well lol. One girl a semester ahead of me had 4 kids and did very well. All about time management and a good support system.