Many people choose to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) because they are attracted to the profession of nursing or another healthcare profession. CNA training takes about four weeks to three months, but completing a college degree to become a Registered Nurse can take 2-4 years. Certified Nursing Assistants can prepare for nursing school by learning basic practical nursing skills on the job. In addition to gaining real world experience, the CNA field usually offers stable employment and a documented job history in healthcare.
When comparing the length of CNA and Registered Nurses programs, it is evident that there are vast educational preparation differences between the two. However, there are many ways that CNAs can use their on the job experiences to prepare for nursing school:
#1 Learn as much as possible
While learning opportunities will vary between CNAs jobs, there are common things that they learn which will give them a competitive edge when applying to nursing school. CNAs learn about medical supplies and their uses, computer charting, patient positioning, patient transferring, patient feeding practices, vital signs, and basic nursing care. CNAs employed in high acuity areas have many opportunities to learn more than basic CNA skills.
#2 Network for the future
In smaller geographical locations there are limited locations for nursing school clinicals. Past places of CNA employment might be on the list of clinical nursing school placements. Friendly familiar faces or connections can increase your available learning opportunities in nursing school.
#3 Find a mentor
An informal on the job nurse mentor, can provide experienced advice about succeeding on the job and in nursing school. Real world advice such as how to write Care Plans, study for exams, succeed in nursing clinicals, and pass the NLCEX-RN exam cannot be replaced by watching YouTube videos.
#4 Training and job experience makes them competitive
Nursing school admission can be an extremely competitive process. All nursing schools have different entrance requirements, and point systems in order to determine which students to admit to their program. CNA training and experience could possibly give a nursing school application a boost.
#5 Prepare for the reality of nursing
Working as a CNA is difficult and physically exhausting. However, nursing school is much more challenging than being a CNA. Furthermore, in nursing school, they teach students about the responsibility of being a Registered Nurse. It far exceeds the legal duty of a CNA. So, if you discover that being a CNA is too stressful, reconsider applying to nursing school. However, most CNAs find that their jobs provide the inspiration they need to succeed in nursing school.
Lastly, some CNAs can use their job experiences even at the end of their nursing school preparation. For example, after working as a CNA on a medical surgical floor, they might learn that this area is not the specialty for them. This knowledge can be useful for students in nursing programs that offer their students choices for their senior year clinical practicum placement. A nursing student with CNA medical surgical experience knows to request an unexplored specialty for their practicum instead of an area that they dislike.
Are you a CNA that leveraged their job experience in nursing school? How did it benefit you? Leave your comments below.