Here’s an interesting piece of news: high school students in Omaha, Nebraska, are learning about the healthcare field by serving as CNAs. According to Live Well Nebraska, these kids become certified as CNAs in 11th grade and get experience in a nursing home and in a hospital during their senior year. The kids do rotations in 16 departments at Bergan Mercy Medical Center, including radiation, oncology, the neonatal intensive care unit and surgery.

Stepping Stone to a Nursing Career

The students in Omaha are not all going to work as CNAs once they finish school. They are experiencing different aspects of the healthcare industry, so they can make an educated decision about whether they want to train in the field after graduation. Some of the young CNAs see it as a stepping stone to a nursing career, while others are considering physical therapy or medicine. They’re taking advantage of this unusual program to ask medical professionals all their questions and gain both experience and knowledge.

CNA in High School

Although the laws differ from state to state, the standard minimum age to become a CNA is 16. Although some employers won’t hire CNAs who are under 18 or don’t have a high school diploma/GED, there are jobs out there for kids who are still in high school.

Is it a good idea to become a CNA so young?

The advantage of becoming a CNA while still in high school is that you can work part time while studying and then start working full time as soon as you finish school. On the other hand, an eight hour shift even once a week can be a burden on a student who has homework, studying, extra-curricular activities and a social life. It can also be hard to deal with patients who are ill and possibly dying, and a person needs to be very mature to be able to handle that. It’s easy to get attached to patients and it can be very hard when they pass away.

If being a CNA is too much for you (or your teenager), there are other ways to get a taste of the healthcare field while still in high school. One option is to work in the activities department of a nursing facility, doing crafts and playing games with the residents. You’ll get to see firsthand how a nursing facility is run, but your job will be easier and more fun than CNA work. Another idea is to volunteer in a hospital or nursing facility during the summer or on weekends.

What do you think? What’s the best age to become a CNA?