Should I try to work as CNA before I get my RN?

Published

Hello-

I'm hoping to get accepted and start nursing school (BSN) Aug. 2011. In the meantime I'm holding a full time job in an unrelated field while I take a few pre-reqs. I am wondering if it might be a good idea to get my CNA certification and work as a CNA before I start school to become an RN. Some nurses tell me not to do it because the work is "awful", others seem to think its a good idea because it will give me that experience and may help with applying to schools.

Please send me your thoughts on this if you have a moment. I would greatly appreciate it.

Best regards,

Lili

ctmed

316 Posts

Specializes in PACU, LTC, Med-Surg, Telemetry, Psych. Has 4 years experience.

As a CNA and as a poster on the CNA portion of the forums, I think it should be national law you should be required 6 months CNA to even be accepted to Nursing School.

You will get so much experience with people, poo, skills, etc. that you will run circles around some of these teeny-bopper excuses for RN/LPN students.

The BEST nurses are former CNAs.

Reality though... an acceptance letter to Nursing School can mean you can get a CNA or Unit Clerk job without the cert depending on interview skills. Nursing homes are really good (or bad) about this. High turnover hospitals go nuts.

You may encounter no jobs, though... students that are fixing to go into something better or take off for tough exams are not good sells.

CrazierThanYou

1,917 Posts

I'm going to say yes. Starting next year, my school is requiring all applicants to have CNA certification. They can't just challenge the exam, either, it has to be the actual class.

I suspect that soon, they are going to begin requiring actual work as a CNA for admission. A nearby school requires 2 years of FULL TIME employment as a CNA.

BKCinNOLA

124 Posts

Specializes in Pediatrics. Has 3 years experience.

In a word, YES.

nolamor

31 Posts

Thanks newgrad!

Were you a CNA before you went to school? Do you think it helped a TON? I'll be taking about a 50% pay cut to do the CNA thing but from what posters are saying, its probably worth it.

millhouse

83 Posts

Specializes in ICU, Hospice, Nursing Education. Has 8 years experience.

This is just my opinion, but I don't think it's necessary to do that. It may or may not help you in your travels to become an RN. It depends on the facility. A lot of places aren't willing or do not have the time to teach you "nursing" related stuff. What it will do, is give you an open eye to the world of health care. Nursing school, unfortunately doesn't give you that. I have held many hats before becoming an RN and the medical "hats" I wore really gave me no insight to what an RN REALLY does.

In my opinion, the last year or semester you have before graduating, I would apply for an externship at your local hospital (not the externship through your school). Doing it through the hospital will give you more freedom of what is allowed of you. THIS will give you an idea of what a 12 hour shift is all about and all the roles you play as the primary nurse. I definitely do not think being a CNA should be a requirement to get into nursing school. That is absurd, IMO!

A lot of people choose nursing or a health care field b/c the job prospect and pay. I went into nursing b/c that is what I always wanted to do. Doing it because you want to and not because you have to makes a lot of difference. Just go in with an open mind that it is a difficult job and is not for everyone. If you LOVE what you do, and genuinely care about people... you'll be a great nurse!! Best of luck to you!! It's a tough but very rewarding job!! :nurse:

silentRN

559 Posts

I say yes! Doesn't even have to be a CNA, but even a PCT at a hospital so you can get your foot in the door. It will also give you an ideal what it truly is like to work in our healthcare system too and if you really want to do it. I've seen some people get into nursing and not even worked in healthcare before, just to later return back to school for another profession because it wasn't what they thought.

But more importantly, just get your foot in the door because now days it's vary difficult to get a new grad job without having already been working in the hospital.

I worked 5 years in hospitals and nursing homes, psych facilities before I became a RN. I knew that I wanted to be a nurse the moment I became a CNA back in January of 2003 because I wanted more responsibility. I actually really enjoy being a nurse. I love working in the ICU. It is what you make of it. Some people feel burned after a shift, but I try to look at it with a different mind set, like "Wow, I am proud of myself for getting everything done for that shift!" I like busy shifts. I like staying busy. You "feel" like you are contributing somehow. All in all, it is what you make of it.

-David

BKCinNOLA

124 Posts

Specializes in Pediatrics. Has 3 years experience.

I didn't start working as a Nursing Assistant until I was in nursing school (I didn't have to take the course because the hospital accepted my nursing school clinicals in lieu of the actual CNA course). I worked on an a Labor and Delivery floor and it was such a valuable experience. The nurses I worked with knew I was in nursing school and went out of their way to make sure I got to see/assist in many different procedures. Of course, not every unit treats their CNAs like this, so that's another thing to consider..

I'd say you should definitely work as a CNA before you get your RN, but you certainly don't have to do it before nursing school. Honestly, you're going to be a nurse for many many many years after nursing school..mine as well have some fun (if you like your other FT job, that is) before nursing takes over your life :)

nolamor

31 Posts

Please excuse my ignorance - what is the difference b/w a CNA and a PCT? I've actually never heard of a PCT?

I'm pretty sure a CNA is typically a 3 month certification? How many months is the PCT? What is the difference in roles? Duties?

Thanks,

CrazierThanYou

1,917 Posts

Please excuse my ignorance - what is the difference b/w a CNA and a PCT? I've actually never heard of a PCT?

I'm pretty sure a CNA is typically a 3 month certification? How many months is the PCT? What is the difference in roles? Duties?

Thanks,

I was thinking that a PCT doesn't require any kind of certification but I'm not really sure. We don't have them in this area.

Our CNA classes last 6 months.

silentRN

559 Posts

PCT isn't under the nursing board, there's no certification, and they typically can do duties like blood draws, EKG. They are under hospital job description and policies, compared to CNA which is under the watch of the nursing board which can regulate duties of the CNA, and you have to keep your certification up to-date.

msbfree

13 Posts

Although you will gain valuable experience from the access to patient care, be aware that it is a real job. Try to get a PRN shift so that when your class schedule changes, like during the summer you can balance both work and school. I tried both, and summer semester which was 4 days a week for 2 months took a toll on me. I was working 7p-7a 3 days a week , and considered full time. There were no PRN shifts available. and I was 1 of 4 people attending school on that shift so trying to find replacements or switching became impossible. Not to mention the sleep deprivation.