CNA, EMT or EKG Certification? Advise to improve chances for job


After reading about the hardships of finding a job as a New Grad, i was wondering if anyone can give any suggestions on how to be proactive and gain experience beforehand.

Does working in medical field beforehand make a Really Big difference?

If so, what would be a better course of action if you have time before getting into a nursing program -- getting a CNA certification or an EKG Tech or EMT?

(I will have 6 months from when i apply to when i start ABSN program, but can earn more money doing my current non-medical job)

I'm a 'career switcher' and have hospital volunteer experience. However i feel like i need to do everything possible to make the job hunt smoother. Ideally want to be an ED or ICU nurse.

Please share your experience and which course of action you would take (CNA, EMT, EKG Tech certification)



nurseprnRN, BSN, RN

2 Articles; 5,114 Posts

:sigh: Everyone wants to be an ICU or ED nurse. It used to be 95% of all my students wanted peds or mother-baby, but that was before Carol Hathaway and House and Chicago Fire or whatever that thing is. Hint: 95% of nursing graduates do not end up in critical care, not ever. :)

Ahem. But OK, then, let's pretend that ER or ICU's where you'll end up. They might teach you how to do EKGs, not that you'll need to know that because what you will need to know is how to read them, and you can learn that in school or take a free-standing EKG interpretation class or get some good books (Dubin is still the classic). You'll be better off doing that in your last year of school, so you have some intelligent understanding of why we care about those particular squiggles on the 300-blocks-per-minute paper and what it means for your practice and your patients.

EMT is not a subordinate rung on the ladder up to RN. Many students think, "Oh, goodie! EMTs can do so many cool things! I wanna know how to do those cool things!" Well, as an RN, you probably will learn how to do most of them anyway, but that's not why you're an RN. See, students can't tell the difference between the tasks and psychomotor skills that nurses do, in one form or another depending on specialty, from what nursing is. Learning how to be an EMT is not going to make you a better nurse. Learning how to be a nurse is going to make you a better nurse.

That brings me to CNA. Your passage from student to RN (including getting work later) will be easier for you if you have an opportunity to acquire some of the basic psychomotor skills used by nurses, and CNA is a perfect place for that. You will also get a leg up in your quest to become socialized into the care team role and learn about its myriad members, and begin to discern nursing role models for the role for which you are preparing. Nursing assessments, nursing plans of care, nursing relationships with other disciplines, seeing patient care situations, seeing family relationships, seeing how and why nurses make their decisions, time management in any care environment ... all of that will serve you as good background in and prep for NURSING far, far more than knowing how to slap electrodes on a chest and extremities and flip a switch, or how to drop an ET tube and do a scoop and run. Prospective managers will know that, too.

So. I hope that's helpful. Welcome to AllNurses! You'll meet a lot of helpful people here.

Edited by cafeaulait



25 Posts

Thanks for the reality check! I like a good dose of that.

Also i had not considered the indirect benefits of working as a CNA like socialized into the care team and discerning the various roles.

However, i was under the impression that there were other specialties similar to CNA that offered more specialized experience and hopefully a greater chance for job placement such as:

1. ED Tech (from what i understand it's a CNA with EKG experience? so first they got their CNA license or finished first part of nursing school and then certified for EKG)

2. Nurse Tech

3. Medical Assistant

Please let me know if these are common jobs (i would like to do it now and then while in nursing school) or if still a straight CNA certification if the best route, with goal of getting to work in ER or ICU.

Thanks so much!

akulahawkRN, ADN, RN, EMT-P

Specializes in Emergency Department. Has 7 years experience. 3,488 Posts

If you want to be a nurse, your best bet is CNA. EMT won't teach you NURSING stuff, but it would give you some patient care experience. Paramedic similarly won't teach you NURSING but it teaches you how to think more in the medical model. Not exactly the right model for Nursing, even though you'd learn some really neat things. Paramedic training also takes about a year to complete, not including the time spent learning to be an EMT. I'm a Paramedic and a Student Nurse. Trust me when I say that these two fields are very different.

Given your timeline, I'd highly recommend going for CNA as it'll help you much more than EMT will. EKG Tech will teach you to put the electrodes on a patient, but usually someone else will do the interpretation.

That's my two bits...



Has 2 years experience. 19 Posts

Hi! I agree the CNA experience would be helpful; however, I obtained my EMT-B prior to going into nursing school. I wanted to be an ED Tech and the ED Director said they would hire me as an EMT. It was great. There were a lot of skills we were able to do at my facility: phlebotomy, EKG's (doing, not reading), urinary catheterization, CPR, lots of splinting and lots of wound care. It provides excellent opportunity to network for getting a job after nursing school. My EMT cert. also gave me a 'point' toward my score to get into nursing school.

We have two EMTs in our ER who are in nursing school- and they have a spot available for them when they graduate.

Posting from my phone, ease forgive my fat thumbs! :)


nurseprnRN, BSN, RN

2 Articles; 5,114 Posts

MAs are not nurses, not on the learn-to-be-a nurse ladder and for many of the same reasons. Nurse tech is usually a job name for a nursing student who's working as a nursing assistant.

Another thing you want to consider is that we teach lay people what a lot of inexperienced people call "skills" all the time. They aren't skills, they're tasks. Nursing students always want to sink that NG tube, draw blood or start IVs, insert Foleys, wound care, and all that stuff. "Ooooh, you're so lucky, you got to do a ... !" Yeah, well, that won't be so exciting soon, and a lot sooner than you think. :)

"Stuff" is not nursing. We teach people how to suction trachs, change dressings, access implanted ports, and run home hemodialysis all the time, but that doesn't make them nurses. Never, ever confuse what nurses are with what nurses do sometimes (even if --when-- you get totally fixated on that lab-skills check-off sheet in school).

This is why if you want to be a nurse, you want a preparatory job in the nursing service, not in the doctor-assisting service or the EMS service.


1 Article; 31 Posts

I was able to get an ED new grad RN position with only volunteer experience in the ED. Granted I was a volunteer in the ED for over 3.5 years but I know this gave me an edge over others whose only ED exposure came from clinicals.

It sounds like you have some time before you are on the job hunt for real (kudos for being proactive this early in the game). I would take this time and become a CNA and volunteer in the dept. you are interested in. Even if it doesn't exactly land you a job later down the road, any exposure is good exposure!



444 Posts

This is my route so far.

First off, I do not have my CNA. Our school did not require it at the time although the next semester had to take the class at least.

I did get my EMT-basic and I was on the fire department for about 3 years. I did private ambulance transports for about a year and a half before getting my medic that ended up overlapping with my first semester of nursing school.

I ended up getting hired after my first semester of nursing school in an ER. My ER manager told me that she weeded out the nursing students and the CNAs that applied and only looked at the LPNs, the EMTs, the paramedics, and the medical assistants for the ER patient care tech (our nursing assistants in this hospital system). I was hired because of my experience on the road with a fire department. I had two job interviews at the other hospitals who wanted me but they didn't get me because the ER called me back first. Seriously.

Then I was made into a supplemental position because I was the third one hired (because of an exam during the original orientation). So I ended up being picked up by a larger hospital as a unit clerk. This is actually the best thing that had happened. If I hadn't been hired the next day at the hospital, I had other callbacks for interviews at 3 other ERs as a paramedic and an additional 2 spots as a radiology transporter and another as a nursing assistant.

In my current ER, I work as a paramedic half the week and the unit clerk the other half. The unit clerk job allows me to study half the time when I do not have work to do. I can also cover phlebo shifts, patient care techs, and open RN shifts. I basically can work 6 out of 7 days if I want to. I pick up hours left and right.

As for the CNA, you may need it for nursing school. I didn't need it initially but all new students need it in my school.

The biggest thing that it does is that it opens you up to getting the internal postings. I see so many more RN postings that do not make it to the external postings.

I graduate in Dec. 2013.