Non-CNA Jobs You Can Work While You're a Student

Getting a foot in the door of a healthcare facility is immensely important in this competitive day and age, and some students want to get an early start. However, not every nursing student wants to work as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). The purpose of this article is to discuss other healthcare-related jobs that nursing students can work. Nursing Students General Students Article

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You are studying to become a nurse and would like to be working for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you would prefer to graduate from nursing school completely free of debt, or at the very least, you wish to minimize any student loan debt you might accrue during your years as a nursing student. Maybe your household really depends on your income, and therefore, you've got to work.

Perhaps you are looking for a job because you're attempting to get a foot in the door of a hospital, nursing home, or some other type of healthcare facility to amass some experience. This is actually a great idea because, if you make a good impression, you might be able to secure a licensed nursing position at the same workplace after you graduate from the school of nursing that you attend.

In this ultra-competitive job market, you might have a strong advantage over other new grads if you are already an internal employee at a place that hires nurses.

Masses of people will recommend that you earn a certified nursing assistant (CNA) state certification and work as a CNA while completing school. While it is true that CNAs accrue excellent healthcare experience that cannot be replicated, not everyone wants to spend the time, energy, or money to pursue the certification.

Other employment options in the healthcare field exist that do not require certification. In addition, these positions offer learning experiences if you look hard enough.

Dietary Aide

You will be working in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the kitchen during meal preparation times. You will also learn how to assemble meal trays as appropriate for the different diets that doctors commonly prescribe to patients (1800 calorie diabetic diet, renal diet, cardiac diet, 2 gram sodium diet, gluten-free diet, and so forth). Some hospitals, long term care centers, and assisted living facilities allow dietary aides to pass out meal trays, so some opportunities for patient interaction might arise. Of course, this is dependent on the policies and procedures of your place of employment.

Environmental Services Technician

You will be responsible for disinfecting patient rooms, performing housekeeping duties, properly disposing of biohazard materials per facility policy, responding to spills, and maintaining cleanliness. Many healthcare facilities use outside companies to do laundry. However, if your workplace has not outsourced laundering duties, the environmental services staff might be responsible for washing soiled linens and other clothing articles. Some brief opportunities for interaction with patients may arise.

Transporter

You will be responsible for safely transporting patients to and from different departments in the hospital. This position allows for plenty of interaction with multiple patients on a daily basis.

Direct Care Staff

Direct care staff members are primarily employed in intermediate care facilities and group homes in the community that house developmentally disabled clients. They give showers, help clients get dressed, prepare meals, assist with feeding and toileting, perform incontinent care, complete flow sheets, and provide companionship. Some states allow direct care staff members to pass oral medications to the clients. This role allows for a great deal of close contact with the patient population served by the group home.

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Very helpful!

I worked as a sitter for over a year, and no, you weren't allowed to do anything (read, do homework) unless it was a night shift (at one point, you couldn't even do that). I currently work as a PCA (Patient Care Associate). I don't have a license. My clinicals in nursing school are "substitutes."

I strongly suggest all students to work as CNAs, earn their stripes, and get down the basics of nursing care. I also find that working as a CNA is a humbling experience that many nurses could use (unfortunately, some nurses forget that CNAs are aides, not slaves). If you aren't willing to work as a CNA (assuming your situation allows it), then I have to wonder...why are you going into nursing to begin with?

I just had to quote this post again because I 100% agree!!

@edimo or @ original poster how do you go about finding these positions in your state?I am interested in the transporter and unit secretary while I am in school. Do I need to call you the original poster to get started with either one of these position?

Specializes in Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.
@edimo or @ original poster how do you go about finding these positions in your state?I am interested in the transporter and unit secretary while I am in school. Do I need to call you the original poster to get started with either one of these position?

You would contact the Human resource department of local hospitals (website, by phone, or in person). They will be able to tell you what positions are open and how to apply for them.

The OP is not personally advertising open positions but giving advise.

I just graduated college in August and have an associates degree in applied science as a medical assistant and am a AAMA certified medical assistant. To make do, I work at a hospital as a nurse's aide and am thinking about going back to school in the fall for nursing, I absolutely love the field of work I chose!

I know this is going to sound unbelievable but the postings in my part of the world for even these kinds of jobs all now state some variant of "exerience required" as a prerequisite. Don't know how strictly that is enforced but true entry-level jobs apparently don't exist anymore.

Specializes in General Surgery.

Great article! I worked as a housekeeper before transitioning to CNA. I just think it adds to your life experience and you get to know what it's like to work different positions in the hospital. You can become a very multifaceted individual. I just passed NCLEX and am waiting to transition into my first nursing job.

There have been various nurses I've worked with that said they used to work in dietary/EVS/sterile processing/linen/transport/CNA. It helps immensely when you're trying to network. All the important people see your face and if you do a good enough job at what you do, they will remember you.

Since I was a housekeeper and now an aide, I will say I got closer to the unit managers as an aide as opposed to being a housekeeper. You're more useful to them because if you're per diem like I am, you can float and really help other floors out when they're short. When I was a housekeeper, I was noticed and recognized but only up to a point.

However, it can serve as a stepping off point and you can hopefully "climb the ladder," potentially easing the difficulty of trying to get an RN job after graduation. In general, most places will try to hire from within, you have a slightly better chance being an internal candidate. On the flipside, just remember with how bad things are for new grads, no job is guaranteed until you get that job offer.

I never thought me being a CNA equated to having an RN job "in the bag." I'm hoping to get called for an interview on our surgical floor and I also have a meeting with our recruiters for our new grad program. One of my classmates kept bragging that she was guaranteed a job on her floor where she works as a unit secretary but she has yet to be hired. I would never go around saying stuff like that.

Specializes in PICU, Pediatrics.
I know this is going to sound unbelievable but the postings in my part of the world for even these kinds of jobs all now state some variant of "exerience required" as a prerequisite. Don't know how strictly that is enforced but true entry-level jobs apparently don't exist anymore.

I agree!!! In my area, Southeastern PA, just about all of the jobs that deal with patients (unit clerk, non-certified nirse asst., etc.) want at least a year of experience in medical or hospital setting, which I don't have. It seems as if those jobs are pretty "teachable" imo, but the hospitals aren't willing to teach! But again, I am in a large city, so maybe that's why.

Thank you for this article. It seems that nursing students often get stuck with the CNA jobs. I am glad to know there are other options!

Medical Assistant in a doctor's office type setting can also be great experience, although it probably won't give you as much of a "foot in the door" for an RN job as working as a CNA would. I also second what someone else said about working as a unit secretary. I have known a handful that got hired in their same facility immediately after graduating.

Okay thank you @ Miiki I just applied for a position waiting for a response. Thanks :)

Im a CNA in pre-nursing, I have already crossed trained into a monitor tech and got my medication aide. I have to say, I already have a ton of experiance under my belt, and while working with RN's I learn so much, they explain everything to me. I know when Im actually in nursing classes I will do well...not to mention the confidence I will have during clinicals. I recommend becoming a CNA!!!