7 Employment Opportunities for Nursing Students

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    This post focuses on 7 different Part-Time & Per-Diem jobs available for nursing students wanting to get some added experience during their RN program. This is a good primer to start figuring out which of the options out there would be best for your unique circumstances and goals.

    7 Employment Opportunities for Nursing Students

    Today's post is going to focus on different PT or Per-Diem jobs for nursing students. Most nursing students that are in coursework to obtain initial licensure are attending full-time, or nearly full time. Therefore, those of us that still need to earn some kind of living at the time, will need something significantly flexible in terms of weekly hour requirements as well as scheduling.

    My Search

    When I first started to wrap my head around the fact I myself would be going back to school full time my mind started to race. As wonderful and amazing as my current employer is- there is no PT or PD job availability at this time... Meaning, when the time comes that I begin my Fundamentals courses and clinical rotation sometime in June, I'll likely need to start looking elsewhere. *insert crying here*

    Obviously, trying to be as well prepared as possible I started looking at all kinds of internet forums for advice. I looked through Facebook groups, AllNurses.com, other Nurse Entrepreneur websites - you name it, I read it! Some of the questions I had in mind were:
    • Do I HAVE to become a CNA?
    • Is there a way to challenge the test? (Becoming a CNA just prior to taking Fundamentals seems silly to me)
    • Which other types of jobs are well-suited for a nursing student?
    • What is the easiest job for me to get into quickly?
    • Which type of job will give me the most flexibility in scheduling?
    • What is the pay like?

    My Findings

    Many of the threads that I reviewed had the same suggestions over and over again. The jobs listed below are part of what I like to call the "tried and true"! Of course, there is a multitude of different part-time jobs one can do while in nursing school I won't be listing here... including but not limited to: babysitting, bartending, waitressing, pet sitting, hosting, retail, home sitting, insurance sales, call centers, etc ... just to name a few! However, below I'll be focusing on the medically-inclined positions that are likely to give you great healthcare experience that can boost your resume once you pass your NCLEX! Additionally, working in a doctor's office, clinic or hospital will increase your networking connections which also helps when the time for your first job search comes around.

    Certified Nursing Assistant

    I am starting my list with this one first because- let's face it, it is "the mother of all" nursing student jobs. It provides an excellent peek into what RN work will be like, networking opportunities, not to mention plenty of patient interactions. . . To answer my own question, NO you do not need to become a CNA while in nursing school. However, it is the job you see most frequently suggested and the one most people say gives you invaluable experience.

    Becoming a CNA requires a "relatively short" training program that can last anywhere from 4-12 weeks depending on the schedule being offered. If you are able to attend full time, you can generally complete the required education and certification in about 1 month's time. For those that can only attend on weekends or night classes, the time is generally extended to 3-4 months. Cost is also in a large range as some programs can be free while others can charge several thousand dollars! You will be required to apply for, and pass a state exam in order to receive a license.

    National Avg : $10-13/hour

    NOTE 1: There are also job postings named "Patient Care Tech" or PCT... These are very similar to CNA positions. My understanding is that a PCT has more experience, and can almost be thought of as a second level of CNA. Sometimes, a PCT is also trained in phlebotomy and EKG monitoring. However, this can vary widely from state to state!

    NOTE 2: Job postings are also available that do NOT require a license, typically named "Nursing Aide".

    Nursing Unit Secretary

    In this position, no formal certification is required but a HS diploma/GED, as well as some additional experience, is typically a requirement. These positions can be found at hospitals and clinics in every unit/floor available. However, patient interaction is limited. Most duties are administrative in nature, and can involve admitting patients, keeping track of patient medical records, maintaining good open communication between staff, and essentially ensuring the unit is running like a well-oiled machine! This is a fantastic opportunity to get familiarized with medical record systems, getting to know how a specific unit operates and learning new medical terminology on the daily. This is also a great position in which to interact with CNAs, RNs, Physicians, Case Managers, Discharge Planners, Social Workers, etc. {{NETWORKING}}

    National Avg : $11-14/hour

    Dietary Aide

    In this job, you will be completing food prep and services. You will be setting up specific meals for patients at varying facilities. Here you have the opportunity to learn specific medically-ordered diets (Diabetic diet, Cardiac Diet, etc) while still having some patient interaction during delivery. If you're looking for an entry-level job that does not require any type of certification this may be a good option and foot in the door at a facility.

    National Avg : $10-13/hour

    Environmental Services Tech

    In this position, you're essentially responsible for housekeeping duties. These can include disposing of biohazardous materials, cleaning patient rooms prior to admission & post-discharge, ensuring the cleanliness of the entire floor, as well as disinfecting commonly used equipment. This is another option where specific certification or vast experience is typically not needed.

    National Avg : $9-12/hour


    This job entails the safe transport of patients between different floors and units, as well as during discharge from the hospital. It allows for significant patient interaction on a daily basis as well as the opportunity to get to know how hospital floors interact with each other. This is another option where specific certification or vast experience is typically not needed.

    National Avg : $12-15/hour

    Monitor Tech

    These positions are also often referred to as, EKG Techs or Cardiac Monitor Techs. While they do not require certification there are certifying bodies available and employment is preferentially offered to those who are certified or already have at least 1-year experience. EKG techs will monitor the heart rhythm of patients in a Telemetry, ICU or Observation unit for long stretches of time. They often are in charge of analyzing rhythms for multiple (10-25) patients at a time. Their job is to report important or abnormal changes in a basic sinus rhythm to a nurse.

    National Avg : $13-16/hour

    Bedside Sitter

    This position provides 1:1 or 1:2 observation for patients that are combative, mentally ill, under suicide-watch or simply at a higher risk for falls during their inpatient stay. Typically it is also the sitter's duty to reorient or calm the patient if they become confused or agitated. Requirements for sitter positions are highly variable as some are not licensed and require little to no experience, while others prefer a CNA certification.

    National Avg : $11-13/hour

    I hope you guys have found this mini round-up helpful! Do you have any suggestions for jobs I can add to the list? If so feel free to email me, or send me a direct message!

    Until next time...
    Future RN Jando
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 14
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    About EsJ87

    Hello, I am a 30 year old full-time 2nd degree RN student. I am currently (1.10.18) halfway through the CSU-San Marcos Accelerated BSN program in San Diego County! Expected graduation date is 12/15/18. I am also currently employed as a Nursing Assistant within the Sharp Healthcare system.

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  3. by   gypsierose
    In Western Washington CNAs can expect to make more than 15$/ hr. With some experience under your belt you can make up to 20$/hr. At most hospitals I've seen here CNAs make more than transport techs, although many hospitals require CNA licensing to work transport. Where I live the CNA shortage is as bad as the RN shortage.
  4. by   Alex Egan
    If you're in a program where you get summers off you can be a health assistant at some summer camps. Just be careful not to bite off more than you can chew responsibly wise, some places will try and get you to practice above your training.
  5. by   EsJ87
    Quote from gypsierose
    In Western Washington CNAs can expect to make more than 15$/ hr.

    Hi GypsieRose - Than you for the added information! I can only speak to my experience in SoCal, as well as being someone with NO clinical/handson experience. This is why I thought to add the "National Average" as opposed to CA specifics. I also have a friend in school who is currently a CNA at UCLA. She states she is making close to 25$/hr !!!! However, she has been there for several years. I unfortunately am not so lucky lol.
  6. by   EsJ87
    Quote from Alex Egan
    Just be careful not to bite off more than you can chew responsibly wise, some places will try and get you to practice above your training.
    This is GREAT advice! I am in fact picking up several extra shifts at my current NA job which is usually only 4 shifts per month. I think being able to get that bit of extra experience any way you can is ONLY to your benefit. It is SO easy though to get overwhelmed quickly, so again this is great advice. Thank you
  7. by   yli08
    Definitely will look into becoming a CNA, are there any difficulties getting hired without prior hospital experience?