3 Reasons to Become a CNA Before a Registered Nurse

Does having experience as a Certified Practical Nurse (CNA) make you a better nurse? Many argue that this experience gives you an edge and advantage once you become a nurse. Why is that? One reason is that CNAs have a skill set that is learned through practice, which also makes them exceptional candidates for nursing school applications. If you considered becoming a CNA before going to nursing school, keep reading to find out why it pays to do so.

Becoming a CNA before going to nursing school has many advantages. A CNA is an entry-level healthcare professional who typically works in a long-term care facility, home care, or hospital setting. They work directly under the supervision of a nurse (RPN or RN) and provide hands-on patient care. They have many responsibilities including:

  • Taking the patient’s vital signs
  • Assist with ADLs (activities of daily living) such as bathing, brushing teeth, dressing, eating, etc.
  • Registration of entry and exit
  • Turn or reposition patients
  • Gather supplies for the RN or MD
  • Cleaning of rooms and sheets
  • Storage supplies
  • Preparing rooms for admissions
  • Assistance with medical procedures

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Benefits of becoming a CNA

  1. Gain invaluable experience

CNA gains valuable exposure to what the day-to-day responsibilities of the nurse look like. After becoming a CNA, they can choose to further their education by going to nursing school or continue working as a CNA. Many aides who became nurses say the experience really added to the bedside skills needed to be an excellent nurse, in particular,

They are more confident when approaching a patient, interacting with them and caring for them.
To have a better understanding of a nurse’s work, its difficulties and its responsibilities.

2. Decreases burnout and work stress

The knowledge gained as a CNA can reduce the amount of burnout and stress resulting from a late understanding of what the job entails. Maybe a lot of time and money was spent on their degree, before realizing that nursing is not for them.

3. Ideal Candidate for Nursing School

Entrance to nursing school is competitive and applicants must stand out from the crowd. Becoming a CNA before nursing school should be highlighted throughout your application, letters of recommendation, entrance essay, and resume. Having the experience of a CNA on your application can propel your application to the top!

Although many nurses probably recommend becoming an aide before becoming a nurse, it is certainly not necessary. Those with no prior experience might sometimes find it a bit more difficult. However, you will find ways to adapt quickly and get to work. Of course, you can be a great nurse without having experience with CNA, so ultimately the decision is yours.

Become a CNA during nursing school

Overall, some recommend becoming a CNA before starting nursing school to ease the transition into the nursing role. But should and can you do it during nursing school? First, you need to consider your desires, goals, and abilities. Remember that working as a CNA will give you great hands-on experience – it’s work and it will take time away from studying. For some nursing students, this might not be feasible and should be more of a summer experience.

If becoming a CNA during nursing school interests you, you should first check your state’s requirements and programs as they vary. Some programs offer a condensed course in as little as 3 weeks, while other programs take months. Additionally, there are programs offered specifically to nursing students at many local community colleges.

Before deciding:
1. Do your research
2. Consider all the options
3. Consider the pros and cons

For more information on transitioning from CNA to AI, see: https://nurse.org/education/cna-to-rn/.

Quick tips

You can learn about the world of nursing by accepting a job at CNA during the summer. This will help you maintain your nursing skills while taking a break from nursing school. Additionally, it can open up great opportunities for networking and getting to know the different roles in the hospital.

Often, nursing students do not know which unit or specialty to apply for after graduation. Working as a CNA in the floating pool will give you exposure to multiple departments where you can observe the flow of each unit. Having the option to train in multiple specialty units is beneficial for you as it will help you decide whether it is the hospital or the unit you wish to apply for post-graduation. It also gives you the opportunity to ask nurses what they think of the unit, the manager, and most importantly, a hospital’s residency program.

Becoming a CNA before a nurse reduces the learning curve associated with nursing duties. There are a variety of CNA programs and jobs available that can be beneficial. You can work during school or even in the summer. Working as a CNA will teach you valuable skills that you will use and develop once you become a nurse, including,

  • Interact with patients
  • Manage your time
  • Become effective in self-care
  • Feel comfortable in a hospital or nursing home

Having exposure to CNA before starting nursing school is a recommendation, not a requirement. However, many may agree that it better prepares you for the reality of nursing and potentially lowers the failure rate. Not only that, but it gives you more confidence and ability to take care of our patients compared to those who have no healthcare experience. Additionally, nurses who have experience with CNAs said they had an even deeper appreciation and understanding of the value of our CNAs because they have been in their shoes.

For more information on becoming a CNA, see https://nurse.org/resources/certified-nursing-assistant-cna/.

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