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Is It Too Demeaning to be a CNA?

Nurse Beth   (642 Views 22 Comments)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Advice Column) Writer Innovator Expert

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho.

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Dear Nurse Beth,

Changing Careers.
So my question is in two folds?

1) I barely have a science background maybe a little algebra but basically both my bachelors and Masters is in the communications filled. Now I am thinking of switching careers because I just feel nursing is a really rewarding career and I get to help people which I love. I guess my question is how hard will it be for somebody like me who has never been taught the sciences?
2) I am also thinking of starting in the health field by becoming a CNA.. is this a good idea or is it too demeaning (like I have been told it is)?


Dear Changing Careers,

You are already accomplished, and the studying part should be doable for you.  You will have to take pre-requisites, which include chemistry, physiology, and anatomy. They are challenging classes in that you have to study, but nothing you can't do if you're determined.

Your belief that being a CNA is demeaning is a huge concern, though. It's understandable you have no idea about the healthcare field since you've had no exposure, but we work as a team. Doctors, nurses, assistants- all of us. 

But having no understanding of the roles or prior experience is no excuse for believing CNA work is demeaning. It's a privilege to care for sick people, protect their dignity, make them comfortable and clean. 

Yes, my advice to you is to work as a CNA. Whatever romanticized and unrealistic filters you are seeing through now will change, I guarantee it. One tip- when you land your CNA job, don't tell any co-workers how you really feel.

Best wishes, 

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

 

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You need to do some more research before you jump into nursing. I fear you have an idealistic view of nursing, as well as an unrealistic view of what the job entails. You say you love to help people, but it’s demeaning to help them with life’s most basic tasks?  If you work in a facility, as most new grads do, “CNA work,” also known as ADLs, will be part of your job, every single day.  

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Nurse SMS has 8 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development.

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You can only be demeaned if you agree with the assessment of that condition. I personally find a great deal of satisfaction in performing the work needed when someone is terribly ill. Is it pleasant and pretty? Nope. Its very hard work, often smells terrible and is challenging to work with people who are not at their best (as nobody is when sick).

I think you actually should work as a CNA. Everything a CNA does is the nurse's responsibility. It will start to give you an idea of what it is you are contemplating and whether you have what it takes to be one of us. I hope you do and I hope you will embrace the experience of it.

Good luck!

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Hi Nurse Beth,

I wanted to ask if you could give me tips on how to jump start my nursing career and gain that experience. Like many others, I am also making a career switch, but not too much of a jump. I have patient experience but through a behavioral health perspective doing research and diagnostics at a Level 1 Trauma Center. I have a bachelors in two other degrees, but not a BSN. My aim is to go into psychiatric nursing. Some people have been giving me a mix of advice on starting this career. I have applied to ME-MSN and MEPN programs but have been wait listed every time. I was thinking of gaining more nursing exposure through getting a CNA or EMT certification. In your opinion, which would be the most cost effective and competitive choice to make? I was hoping to be in a program by now to better support my kids, but I think I have been doing things wrong.

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Nurse SMS has 8 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development.

4 Followers; 5,792 Posts; 45,887 Profile Views

11 hours ago, e_monpepper said:

Hi Nurse Beth,

I wanted to ask if you could give me tips on how to jump start my nursing career and gain that experience. Like many others, I am also making a career switch, but not too much of a jump. I have patient experience but through a behavioral health perspective doing research and diagnostics at a Level 1 Trauma Center. I have a bachelors in two other degrees, but not a BSN. My aim is to go into psychiatric nursing. Some people have been giving me a mix of advice on starting this career. I have applied to ME-MSN and MEPN programs but have been wait listed every time. I was thinking of gaining more nursing exposure through getting a CNA or EMT certification. In your opinion, which would be the most cost effective and competitive choice to make? I was hoping to be in a program by now to better support my kids, but I think I have been doing things wrong.

Are you a nurse?

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Crash_Cart has 11 years experience and specializes in ER OR LTC Code Blue Trauma Dog.

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As much as I appreciate the field of pre-hospital care, I don't feel the EMT track is really going to expose you to "nursing."

However, the CNA track definitely does. The exposure of working directly with nursing staff would be especially beneficial in attaining your goal. 

I think you're going to find out that working as a CNA while working toward a nursing degree will gain you a lot of support, respect and encouragement from the nursing staff you are working with. 

What you can learn from experienced nurses you will be working with everyday is priceless. In fact, don't be surprised if some of them try to take you under their wing. 

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15 minutes ago, Crash_Cart said:

As much as I appreciate the field of pre-hospital care, I don't feel the EMT track is really going to expose you to "nursing."

However, the CNA track definitely does. The exposure of working directly with nursing staff would be especially beneficial in attaining your goal. 

I think you're going to find out that working as a CNA while working toward a nursing degree will gain you a lot of support, respect and encouragement from the nursing staff you are working with. 

What you can learn from experienced nurses you will be working with everyday is priceless. In fact, don't be surprised if some of them try to take you under their wing. 

Appreciate the advice! I was leaning towards the CNA path initially, but was then told to get training as an EMT by other nurses, so got confused.

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Swellz has 6 years experience and specializes in oncology, MS/tele/stepdown.

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17 hours ago, e_monpepper said:

Appreciate the advice! I was leaning towards the CNA path initially, but was then told to get training as an EMT by other nurses, so got confused.

Some hospitals require their PCTs (patient care technicians) to be EMTs. At my old hospital, our PCTs and CNAs had a very similar role, but the PCTs also drew labs and performed EKGs. You'd have to find out if hospitals in your area do things the same way, but that would explain why nurses could be advocating for EMT over CNA.

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7 hours ago, Swellz said:

Some hospitals require their PCTs (patient care technicians) to be EMTs. At my old hospital, our PCTs and CNAs had a very similar role, but the PCTs also drew labs and performed EKGs. You'd have to find out if hospitals in your area do things the same way, but that would explain why nurses could be advocating for EMT over CNA.

 I see, will definitely take that to account. Appreciate the advice as well! Very helpful community.

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@e_monpepper I'm in a very similar boat, I have a bachelors and a masters in unrelated fields (social work and applied behavioral analysis respectively) and am now in the process of going back to nursing school. For me, I'm going with an ADN program (unless I come into some money), but I am very strongly leaning towards the EMT route. @Crash_Cart I wonder if you could expand on the EMT not exposing one to nursing, as I think for me I have previously been through 3 semesters of nursing school (over 10 years ago) and had also obtained my CNA certificate although I never actually worked as a CNA and I have spent close to 7 or 8 years working with children with severe cognitive and physical challenges. The only reasoning for why CNA vs EMT that I've heard in the past is the EMT route has less focus on the caring/bedside aspect of nursing, but I feel my previous experience covers that. My weak area is feeling confident about the quick decision making and the more technical side of nursing, which I feel is well covered by being an EMT. Additionally, I have been told by another EMT in the area that the local children's hospital will often hire EMT's as emergency room tech's which is exactly where I want to end up. Also, it seems as if EMT's in my area get paid slightly more than CNA's and while I get money isn't everything, while I wait to be accepted into my program I am trying as hard as I can to pay off a good portion of my debt, so I can work minimally while in nursing school Any other reasons for me to reconsider the CNA route? 

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Crash_Cart has 11 years experience and specializes in ER OR LTC Code Blue Trauma Dog.

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2 hours ago, CamMc said:

@Crash_Cart I wonder if you could expand on the EMT not exposing one to nursing,

To my knowledge, EMT's are trained to work calls from an ambulance and CNA's work with patients in a hospital. 

 

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