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How helpful/important is it to work as a CNA before going to nursing school?


Has 2 years experience.

If you worked as a CNA during or before nursing school, what did it add to your learning or work? If you did not do it, what do you feel you would have gained? If you think it is helpful, how long do you think it would take to gain the benefit?

I'm about to get out of high school so I don't really know much (except what I've learned here :) so please explain! Thanks in advance!

ArtClassRN, ADN, RN

Specializes in Med Surg. Has 8 years experience.

CNA experience is extremely valuable and important. There are many threads discussing it, please do a search.

Good luck!


Specializes in L&D, infusion, urology. Has 2 years experience.

Agreed. Lots of threads about exactly this. Use the magnifying glass at the top to do a search.

My opinion is that you get used to touching patients intimately, and you get some of the fundamentals of nursing down. This stuff can hold back some people for a long time, which can get in the way of learning "real" nursing stuff (I use quotes because ALL of it is REAL nursing stuff).

I have prior healthcare experience, and yes, I feel it helped me. Really, beyond the first semester, assuming you're comfortable touching patients, you'll be on the same playing field as your classmates.

In my opinion, not important. If anything it can lead to increased burn out.

So you can take vitals, change a bed or clean up poo faster than new non-CNA grads, so what?

Talking to patients is just as easy (or hard) as talking to any other person. Besides most of our CNAs when I was PCU just passed off the difficult questions or requests to "let me ask the nurse".

I worked in a sporting good store in college and I do NOT regret passing up on being a CNA.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

I never worked as a CNA. I worked as a direct care staff member at a group home for developmentally disabled adults when I was 19 and 20 years old. I gave showers, changed briefs, made beds, dressed and fed clients, and completed other CNA tasks.

I don't think I missed out on anything significant by never working as a CNA. It is a physical, backbreaking job that is not for me.


Specializes in Med-Surg and Neuro.

It depends. If you want to work in ER, many ER jobs I applied for wanted CNA experience in an ER. Working as a CNA will help you get a job if you're in a saturated market. I didn't work as a CNA and was able to find a great job 2 1/2 months after graduation, so it didn't hurt me, but I have a BSN from a well-respected university in the region. That's another factor to consider, if you're only ADN, you may need the leg-up a CNA job can get you. I wouldn't work as a CNA outside of a hospital, though. Hospitals aren't impressed by LTC or SNF CNA experience.


Has 25 years experience.

I wish I did. Or even a US. Anything to get the flow of the hospital routine.

applewhitern, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU. Has 30 years experience.

I never worked in the healthcare field in any capacity until I graduated from nursing school. As a matter of fact, my nursing school greatly discouraged us from working during the first semester of actual nursing classes. I was an accountant and did payroll, taxes, etc., for a plumbing/electrical company! Never had even been in a hospital except to have a baby.

It helped so much plus it helps you get you a job afterwards. I was a CNA, PCT, psych tech. Then during school I earned my LPN.

imho it's not helpful, unless you're working at a place where you KNOW you will be able to get an RN job offer there upon graduation. CNA at a company that is notoriously difficult to get into and everyone wants in and they like to hire /promote internal candidates? helpful. CNA at a random nursing home, not really.

i bartended in a club and a high end restaurant and taught music lessons during nursing school, and made on average about 3-4 times more $ per hour than CNA wages. Work smarter not harder.

Edited by ceccia

Lennonninja, MSN, APRN, NP

Specializes in MICU - CCRN, IR, Vascular Surgery. Has 10 years experience.

I found it very helpful. Being a tech at the hospital directly led to being offered a new grad job months before graduation. It also helped with time management, prioritization, and several learning opportunities. However, I'd recommend working on a part time/PRN basis. I worked 1 shift a week, and that was about all I could manage with nursing school full time. Don't get yourself burned out!


Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis. Has 24 years experience.

SOME nursing programs require it. It is valuable experience. Check and see if it's required; if so, you may as well start there.

Tenebrae, BSN, RN

Specializes in Mental Health, Gerontology, Palliative. Has 9 years experience.

I found that it was somewhat helpful. The better experience was working in a community home with a chap that required complex nursing care.

In NZ at least there is fairly minimal cross over between the role of CNA and RN


Specializes in ICU, PCU. Has 8 years experience.

My boss hired me as a new graduate because she knew me through the hospital as an extern... later, she hired two other new graduates who she did not know through the hospital as externs.

SOME nursing programs require it. It is valuable experience. Check and see if it's required; if so, you may as well start there.

Even if not required for the admissions process, you may find that it is a plus on your applications and/or your interviews. You can establish your interest in nursing by stating that you have been working as a CNA/PCT/HHA, etc. There may also be points awarded on the application.

That Guy, BSN, RN, EMT-B

Specializes in Emergency/Cath Lab. Has 6 years experience.

The only reason it is beneficial I think is because it helps you network.


Specializes in Med-Surg. Has 1 years experience.

It helped me in several different ways. The biggest way was by causing me to learn how to interact with patients and family members. I am a shy and introverted person, being a CNA forced me to break down some of my walls and get more comfortable with patients. The first time I saw someone naked (other than family or pictures) was as a CNA. I am glad I learned to get past that awkwardness before nursing school.

It also helped me in nursing school because I could relate what I was learning to what I was doing at work. The first semester of school was easier for me because most of it was learning basic care.

I know it helped me get into nursing school (points based entry, being a CNA added bonus points). Having work experience and being able to add that to my resume helped me get hired as a nurse. Networking is a big bonus.

At work I am more sympathetic to my PCT's and try very hard to be a team player.

I am sure there are more. I don't think it is necessary to be a CNA/PCT prior to being a nurse, but I do think it helps you, at least initially.


Specializes in Med-Surg. Has 1 years experience.

i bartended in a club and a high end restaurant and taught music lessons during nursing school, and made on average about 3-4 times more $ per hour than CNA wages. Work smarter not harder.

I really agree with this. If someone is looking for a boost to their nursing career by starting out as a CNA, but really depends on a strong financial income, then I would advise against it. CNA pay is lousy starting out so if you need the money and can make it at a non health care job, then stick with the higher paying job.