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

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ReadyToListen has 2 years experience as a CNA, EMT-B.

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I wish I had worked as a CNA while in nursing school. Nearly all of my classmates who worked as CNAs in the hospital were able to transition into an RN role within the same system right after graduation. Their Job Search process was much less stressful than mine was. Unless you want to go into LTC, working in a nursing home as a CNA probably isn't going to be an advantage.

As for hands-on patient care experience, I wish I could change a brief as smoothly and quickly as the CNAs I work with! I have yet to get through a day at work where I don't perform any tasks that are within the CNA scope. The CNAs at my workplace are hands-down more skilled than I am when it comes to assisting people with their ADLs. Can I do my job just fine without the additional experience? Sure. But I'd probably be much more efficient with certain tasks if I had more experience doing them prior and wasn't learning those at the same time I was learning the ropes as a nurse.

The other reason I wish I had worked as a CNA in school is that I learn so much better when I can connect an experience to a condition. Trach/vent nursing did wonders for my understanding of the respiratory system and working in LTC/TCU has helped me better understand chronic conditions like heart failure, COPD, and diabetes. You can read about this stuff in the textbook, but actually seeing firsthand how illness affects the body and an individual is invaluable.

If you're considering a career in healthcare, working as a CNA would be far more helpful than flipping burgers somewhere or working retail.

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47 Posts; 4,162 Profile Views

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.

In this job market I'm thinking everybody whether ADN or BSN could use any kind of leg-up they can get. :) Every hospital I've encountered wants CNAs with 1-2 years experience before they'll hire you. Usually that experience comes from LTCs, nursing homes, etc. At my last job as a CNA, only 1 or 2 of the other aids had NEVER worked at a nursing home, and they were older aides.

OP: Just try to make yourself as 'valuable' as possible. If you can afford it I think being a CNA is a great way to make yourself more valuable. It also gave me a treasure trove of relevant stories to tell during my interview for my job as a nurse. The interviewer asked several questions about how I handled previous pts. Apparently I impressed her with my 'useless' days as an aide because she called to offer me my dream job the very next day and is now my manager!

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47 Posts; 4,162 Profile Views

Depending on the type of unit you end up working on you may or may not benefit much from previous aide skills. I will say that working in ICU, I use my old CNA skills daily. The nurses and aides always team up to turn, clean, bathe, or move the pts up in bed.

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37 Posts; 688 Profile Views

I think being a CNA before going to nursing school is really helpful. It allows you to work as a team and learn all the basic things that you would be doing as a CNA. It will also look GREAT on the resume or application when you apply for Nursing School, since BSN programs are very competitive to get into.

I highly recommend that you go for your BSN. True, It's a higher degree, but many places tend to hire only BSN nurses now depending on the company and where you live.

Good Luck.

Edited by Nurse-Prestige

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No Stars In My Eyes has 43 years experience and specializes in Med nurse in med-surg., float, HH, and PDN.

1 Follower; 2,469 Posts; 43,926 Profile Views

My first 'real' job after high school was as a file clerk and typist in a big insurance company. When that proved boring beyond belief I took a job as a CNA in a nursing home. I took the job because I liked old people a lot, and it seemed more interesting than office work.

It wasn't until one of the charge nurses at the nursing home rolled her eyes after I asked my 3,000th question and said, "Why don't you just go to nursing school!?!" Well, I had never considered that before even though my mother was a nurse. After that seed was planted in my mind, it slowly grew roots until I thought, "Why not?"

So working as a nurse's aide is what triggered my interest in nursing as a career.

One 'plus' was that when I was interviewed by the Nursing School Director, she mentioned I was the only testee at the time who correctly spelled sphygmomanometer :roflmao:.

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calivianya is a BSN, RN and specializes in ICU.

2,418 Posts; 35,516 Profile Views

I worked as a CNA my senior year in nursing school. I didn't think it was helpful. I could have gotten a job on the floor I worked on very easily - my manager stated he'd love to have me - but I really hated that floor. I could not land a job I wanted in that hospital system. I wanted ICU and rehab or med/surg were all I was offered. I had to move to a different state to get my foot in the door in ICU. At least I was working at the extern pay rate that year, which was $5/hr more than CNAs usually made, so I won't call it a total waste of my time. Just a partial waste of time...

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firstinfamily has 33 years experience as a RN.

790 Posts; 5,574 Profile Views

I worked retail before I started nursing school. I never worked or volunteered in the health field before going to nursing school. I think learning to deal with the public helped me immensely. The skills you would learn as a CNA would help as far as knowing how to reposition, lift, transfer patients and learning how to prioritize their needs. I do agree with the above post that learning to work smarter, not harder would benefit you the most. My nursing school also discouraged students from working while going to nursing school, the time commitment is so great when you are in school, and you do need time to study, do homework. You can make it without the CNA experience. It is true those who worked as CNAs have a leg up on getting a position at the same facility when they become nurses, but I believe they had to work while going to school.

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ReadyToListen has 2 years experience as a CNA, EMT-B.

1 Article; 123 Posts; 13,808 Profile Views

I've actually already decided to be done at RN because I'm not looking for a job. I just want to be able to serve all over the community. Just FYI but thanks anyway!

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Red Kryptonite has 3 years experience and specializes in hospice.

2,212 Posts; 18,318 Profile Views

I think it's important. In fact, I think nursing schools should require applicants to be CNAs. As a CNA, I can tell a new nurse who wasn't a CNA a mile away.

At least if you're a CNA before you're a nurse, you'll save yourself from having your CNA redirect your placement of a geri-pad or brief when you're a new RN. I can't tell you how many times I've had to do that. Tip: no one poops from their shoulder blades. ;)

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icuRNmaggie has 24 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in MICU, SICU, CICU.

1,970 Posts; 25,247 Profile Views

Completion of nursing fundamentals qualifies you to apply for a CNA certificate. There are scholarship programs for nursing students who work weekends. If you have a definite career path in mind, such as CVICU, working there as a CNA/nurse extern, along with the relationships that you make, can put you high on the list for their residency programs.

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ArtClassRN has 8 years experience as a ADN, RN and specializes in Med Surg.

630 Posts; 10,706 Profile Views

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

So what? Here's what: Nursing students who spend all their time trying to figure out how to get a patient's VS and ADLs done definitely don't learn as much as as students who came to clinical already competent in those skills.

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SionainnRN has 5 years experience and specializes in Emergency Room, Trauma ICU.

914 Posts; 8,356 Profile Views

I think it would be very important. And not only to speed through learning ADLs once in nursing school, but more importantly to give perspective nurses a realistic idea of what nursing is. Too many nursing students or new grads only have tv to go by and are completely blown away by what nursing is. I would much rather those people learn this as a cna before they start nursing school than halfway through the program.

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