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Many certified nursing assistants (CNAs) seek ways to advance their careers and earn a higher income. Nursing school is one of the most popular options.
Does CNA experience help for nursing school? If you are a CNA looking for a new career opportunity with a higher salary and more autonomy, CNA experience may help you succeed in nursing school.
This guide can help you understand how to apply your background as a CNA to prepare for nursing school. You can leverage your experience to become a licensed practical nurse, registered nurse (RN), or an advanced practice registered nurse, such as a nurse practitioner.
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1. Decide what nursing specialty would be best for you
There are many specialties in nursing, including mental health nursing, surgical nursing, pediatric nursing, and gerontology nursing, to name just a few. Working as a CNA in any of these fields can help you explore which specialty best suits you.
2. Start to build your network
It's never too early — or too late — to develop a professional network in nursing. Most established nurses are happy to talk about their career and offer advice about nursing school and career options. You can also use supervisors and colleagues as references when applying for nursing school or jobs.
3. Learn how to succeed in a nursing environment
No matter the role, nursing is physically and emotionally demanding. As a CNA, you can develop the skills needed for success, such as pacing yourself, using mindfulness or meditation, and maintaining your concentration in a busy environment.
4. Get a head start on some nursing practices
Even without an academic background in nursing, CNAs gain experience by watching other nurses use different tools and methods. You develop experience other students learn for the first time in nursing school, including taking vital signs, updating medical records, and helping lift and move patients.
5. Learn the communication and cultural competence skills you'll need
To be a good nurse, you have to be culturally competent as a nurse and have excellent nurse soft skills, such as being a good communicator. You can learn these skills by observing what effective nurses do and don't do, and by practicing your own skills. You can also get experience working with patients and colleagues from various backgrounds.
6. Take advantage of your employer's learning opportunities
Especially if you work for a hospital or a large organization, your employer might offer additional on-the-job training or learning. You can often learn computer skills, nursing vocabulary, how to search nursing literature, and other techniques to help you in nursing school.
CNA and Nursing School FAQs
Should I get my CNA before nursing school?
There are pros and cons to becoming a CNA before nursing school. As a CNA, you can develop experience and a network to help ensure that nursing is the right career for you before investing time and money in nursing school.
However, CNA jobs don't pay very well with CNA salaries typically on the lower end, especially compared to RN job options. CNAs earn a median annual salary of $30,830, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This could mean financial strain if you take time away from work to attend classes.
Can you become a nurse after being a CNA?
Working as a CNA helps you get used to nursing environments and exposes you to the skills and knowledge needed in nursing. It also helps you to identify the nursing specialty that's best for you and build a professional network.
Does being a CNA help get you into medical school?
Medical schools seek students with a professional understanding of practicing medicine and healthcare environments. Experience as a CNA, emergency medical technician, or in other entry-level healthcare careers can give you a leg up among other candidates.
It also helps you build a network that can help you get into and succeed in medical school.
What can I do to increase my chances of getting into nursing school?
To stand out among other applicants, you need good grades, professional references, strong ethics, a commitment to nursing and helping people, and the ability to manage stress in a busy work environment.
If you focus on developing these skills, being a CNA can help you get into nursing school.
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