Why be a CNA first?


I have seen many threads where people suggest to prospective nursing students to become a CNA first so they will and I quote, "know what it's like to be a nurse."

My question is, the scope of practice is totally different for those two positions, so how does being a CNA first help?

I understand that it will help with basic functions and assessment skills, but what else?

Cause it would suck to get through 2 semesters of school and realize poop and puke make you too sick to be a nurse. Easier and quicker to spend $500 for cna and know you hate it than $7000 in RN school and realize you can't hack it


77 Posts

I am going to try to get into the cna program at my community college so I can work as a cna and then I hear it really prepares you for the Rn program and will make the clinicals much easier.


382 Posts

Yes, the scopes of practice are different, but you are working around nurses and seeing what they go through on a day to day basis. My scope of practice may be different from the RNs i work with, but I see what they have to deal with and what they go through. I'm comfortable with patients and familiar with how a busy med-surg floor works. We have nursing students on our floor right now, and you can tell who's had patient care experience and who hasn't. The ones who haven't are much more timid and nervous.

I'm not saying you can't be a good RN without being a CNA. There's plenty of good RNs who never set foot in a hospital until nursing school, but I think it definitely helps get you familiar with working in healthcare.

allnurses Guide

Hygiene Queen

2,232 Posts

...you are working around nurses and seeing what they go through on a day to day basis...

Yes, working in such close proximity (as an extension of the nurse, you could say) will really open your eyes to what it is that nurses actually do (if you actually pay attention!).

In fact, working as a CNA opened my eyes so much... that I said, "No way I'm gonna be a nurse!".

And I did not become one for 20 years.

But when I finally did become a nurse, I was not wearing any rose-colored glasses and my transition as been fairly smooth.



201 Posts

I've been a CNA for 6 years and have learned alot about what nurses do. I've learned how to chart, do finger sticks, care plans, etc.. As well as basic CNA duties. I get the chance to work closely with other nurses on a daily basis. You also get a chance to learn all of the medical terminology.


112 Posts

If I cannot get into a ROP program or get WIA funds for a LVN program, I might get the training for CNA.

Purple_Scrubs, BSN, RN

2 Articles; 1,978 Posts

Specializes in School Nursing. Has 8 years experience.

1) Nurses need to be able to do everything a CNA can do, so CNA experience will make nursing school, and the transition into nursing, easier.

2) You will learn a lot, especially if you are lucky enough to have nurses who know you are in nursing school who like you and want to help you

3) You will make connections that will help you in landing a first nursing job

4) You will learn if nursing is really for you or not. If you cannot stand being a CNA, chances are you might not be any happier as a nurse (depending on what exactly you hate about it)

5) You may have the opportunity to work in different settings or with different populations and may discover a specialty that you want to pursue as a nurse, and the CNA experience in that setting may help land an RN job there.

6) You can often continue to work PRN during nursing school with some flexibility, and a little extra $ never hurts

That is all I can think of now. I myself did not work as a CNA before or during school, but I honestly wish that I had!

allnurses Guide


3 Articles; 5,581 Posts

Specializes in Adult Internal Medicine. Has 12 years experience.

Bed side experience. It can't (really) be taught in nursing school and is one of your most important skills as a nurse.


6 Posts

That awkward moment when putting a vacuum on a tunneling stage 4 that has been saturated by a popped out Flexi-Seal, hammers home a level of reality that no text book ever can, or will be able to match.



1 Article; 317 Posts

Has 1 years experience.

Being a CNA will help you a lot during the first parts of nursing school, and will help you get used to patient interaction and getting used to turning patients for exams and what not. It's not an end all be all thing, but it will help.


29 Posts

Everyone already said plenty but I wanted to add that being a certified caregiver has great advantages too. As a CNA, you cannot pass medication. I became a CNA because I wanted to become familiar with nursing, it was a requirement for school and it definitely helped but I signed up with an agency and was assigned to a retirement and assisted living community. They had me covering for certified caregivers whose job was to pass medication, check GLU levels and administer insulin. I wasn't able to do anything but laundry and remove trash and help wheel people to breakfast cause I was a CNA. That really opened my eyes and so I was able to get certified as a caregiver by taking a simple 8 hour course. I eventually began working there and that's where I was when I started my nursing program. The first year of my program was the LPN portion. Everything I did that first year in nursing school as far as clinical experience was exactly what I had been doing as a CNA and certified caregiver combined. That first year was a breeze as far as learning about diabetes, intramuscular injections, medications and basic patient care was concerned.

And the biggest pro here is that I worked with enough LPNs and RNs that just was so happy to work with someone who could handle it that they would recommend me for a position with their facility when I graduated.