Is Being a CNA Before a Nurse a Good Idea?
Updated: Nov 19, 2018
Yes! Being a CNA is worth your time before becoming a nurse. There are, of course, pros and cons to being a CNA while in nursing school, but the benefits of being a CNA will benefit you in many areas as a nurse. Here are four major areas of nursing that will benefit you as a nurse if you get your CNA license first.
1. Hands-on experience.
Nursing is a profession that is being pulled away from patient care more and more, but nurses still have hands-on care in most areas of nursing work. If you are uncomfortable with touching people, nursing will be a hard career path for you. Being a CNA will give you the experience to work with people on a daily basis. As a CNA, you will be more involved in the patient hands-on care than the nurse in most work situations.
If you get a CNA license and work while in school, you will have no problem with working with people in your clinicals and when you graduate. Many new grad nurses who were CNAs first, act as if they have been a nurse for years. This is because the work experience you will have as a CNA can only be found as a CNA. Working in “healthcare” is diverse, and not all healthcare positions have patient hands-on experience. Being a CNA will put you in the line of action to your patients, and you will be a much better nurse because of it.
2. Working with nurses.
Just as the title says - certified nursing assistant - you will be working closely with nurses. Nurses have good insight on career paths, and have great advice for nursing students. CNAs that are in nursing school will have excellent nursing tutors that are usually happy to share knowledge on nursing-related subjects. Nurses will know your frustrations of nursing school, and can be great mentors in helping you get through your program. When you work close with nurses as a CNA, you will be able to create good friends that are willing to help you and encourage you to be a great nurse.
3. You will understand CNA work.
CNA’s are one of the most undervalued careers in healthcare. The frustrations that a CNA might go through is unbearable for most people. Many nurses who were not CNAs do not understand what CNAs go through at work. It is easy as a nurse to be critical and “bossy” to a CNA. As a nurse, you will need to be a supervisor for your CNAs, and in nursing school, you will learn how to manage patient care utilizing CNAs. If you don’t understand what CNAs go through, you might have a hard time putting yourself in their shoes.
Some of the frustrations many CNAs have involve working with nurses who treat them poorly. This attitude creates a toxic work environment, and can be avoided by treating CNAs with respect. This attitude of respect will be easier for you to have if you know the frustrations CNAs go through.
4. Money for nursing school.
Nursing school requires many long hours of studying, and long days being at the college or clinicals. Being a CNA will give you a flexible schedule to work nights and weekends that will make it possible for you to pay your way through school. Working a shift or two a week will not destroy your study time. If you work during the evening or at night, you might even be able to study at work. Getting paid to study is a great advantage to your life during and after college. Nurses who have a large amount of debt after graduation are not able to enjoy the boost in income because they are busy trying to pay off their debt.
Depending on where you work, you might be able to get tuition reimbursement.
Beware that most of the reimbursement programs have rules before you can get paid. In some hospitals, you need to work as a CNA for a year before they will help you with your tuition. When you are given money for your schooling, you will most likely need to sign an agreement that you will work for that facility for a certain amount of time. This might feel like you are being restricted on options, but if you really like the facility you work at, you will have an automatic job lined up, while other people in your nursing class are busy interviewing. Meanwhile, you will be enjoying the pay of a nurse. And if you are lucky, the facility may even increase your starting pay for your experience as a CNA.
Hands on experience. No job can benefit nurses more than a CNA. You will be working with real patients, and you will be prepared to be a great nurse.
Working with nurses. Having a mentor is great, having a nursing mentor is even better. Nurses have been where you are now, and they will be able to give you good advice on how to be a great nurse.
Understanding CNA work. When you are a nurse, you will understand what CNAs go through, and you will have the compassion and understanding to help them.
Money for nursing school. Paying your way through nursing school isn’t fun, but you won’t have much of a life while in nursing school anyways. If you can pay your way through school, you will enjoy the increased income, rather than struggle paying off debt.