Question: I am thinking about training as a nurse and was wondering if there is any benefit to becoming a CNA before nursing school? Or am I better off working in a non-related field while studying?
Answer: The answer to this question won’t be the same for each person since there are many factors to consider, including family and financial situation. But there are definitely a number of benefits to being a CNA before becoming a nurse:
- You’ll have an easier time in school. CNAs who already know their way around patients and medical equipment will find nursing school less overwhelming and will have the basics down already. Many nursing students report that they felt they were behind in their studies while the CNAs had the advantage of already being in the field.
- You’ll benefit from hands-on experience. If the nurses on your floor know you are studying to be a nurse, they will likely be happy to mentor you. You’ll observe procedures and watch them “do their thing” so when you get your degree you’ll be way ahead of the game.
- You will gain an understanding of what it’s like to be a CNA. When you become a nurse, you will have CNAs working under you. If you know what the CNAs go through, you can be a more effective manager. When you respect the CNAs and the job they do, they will respect you in return.
- It looks good on your resume. When you look for a job as a nurse, you are more likely to be hired if you already have experience in the field. A totally unrelated job listed on your resume will show that you are a dedicated worker but won’t say much about your nursing skills.
- You might be able to line up a job. Many CNAs who get their nursing degree end up staying at the same facility they were working at with a promotion and a better salary. If you prove yourself as a CNA, you’ll be in with a shot as soon as there is an opening for an LPN or RN.
Many nurses started out as CNAs and recommend CNA training prior to becoming a nurse. They report that nursing school was easier, they had less trouble finding a job and it helped them be better nurses. On the other hand, lots of nurses went straight to nursing school without going the CNA route first and although some regret it, others say it was easy to bridge the gap. What has your experience been? What would you recommend?