Help a liberal arts major become a nurse
September 30, 2008 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Help me flesh out a plan to first become a nursing assistant then a nurse.

I've been thinking about what I want to do with my life and perusing AskMefi for inspiration. I've hit upon nursing. I already have a BA in English, and I'd like to achieve this goal fairly quickly. Of course, I also want a chance to first get my feet wet before I make the big nursing school commitment. While I may want to leave the city once I've graduated from nursing school, I'm hoping to stay in NYC for the initial work and schooling.

Right now, my plan is: 1. Get certified as a nursing assistant. 2. Find job as a nursing assistant. 3. Take prereq classes while working. 4. Apply for an accelerated post-bacc program at a nursing school. 5. Be a nurse.

The questions follow: Is this a reasonable plan, or would you recommend any modifications? Where can I find information on CNA programs in NYC? Does it matter where I go for the CNA stuff? Are there enough nursing assistant jobs available here to find work? Where can I take classes that can fit into a nursing assistant's schedule? How quickly should I be able to clear away the prereq classes? Are there any schools that don't require any prereqs?

Finally, any books or websites with general (or NY-specific) information about nursing and nursing schools would be very much appreciated.
posted by learn to read to Work & Money (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Your plan sounds good. Or, you can do what I did. Forget the nursing assistant program and work a nurses assistant (or "tech") in your first or second semester of nursing school. I don't know NY's laws on certification, but this is an option.

Do you want to work full-time as a nursing assistant? If so, you can work three 12-hour shifts, or four-8s. This will probably leave time to take your anatomy and phys, statistics, microbiology, and other sciences you may need to get into nursing school. Once you are accepted to nursing school, you may want to cut down to part-time, or weekends, depending on the intensity of your program.

Sorry, I have no information on the state of NY.

Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 10:47 AM on September 30, 2008

I believe Yale and UPenn have nursing programs specifically for people without BSNs.

Here's the one at Yale:
posted by onepapertiger at 10:59 AM on September 30, 2008

I'm sorry. I didn't read your question carefully enough. Maybe you can call Yale and ask them if there are any similar programs in NYC.
posted by onepapertiger at 11:00 AM on September 30, 2008

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has a lot of good info here, including lists of schools by state that offer accelerated bachelors and masters programs to get people into nursing. They'll have different prereq requirements depending on the school, but at least this way you can limit your googling of schools to places that actually have a relevant program for you.

I can't comment on the availability of NA jobs in NYC, but the NAs I know here in Minnesota make very little money. I think one of them said she's in the neighborhood of $14,000 a year. I understand wanting to get your feet wet before jumping into nursing school proper, but consider whether you'll be able to pay your living expenses and tuition if you go that route.
posted by vytae at 11:21 AM on September 30, 2008

Oh, more things I should have said... A lot of people get into nursing by working as a CNA first, so you should be able to find plenty of resources for scheduling CNA work around prereq classes. CNA hours seem to be pretty flexible.

As for where to take your CNA course, you could try the Red Cross. I know they offer it in my area. It's surprisingly quick and affordable. Also, a few (but certainly not all) of the schools I've looked at that offer an accelerated BSN require you to have your CNA certification before you start classes. Those schools seem happy to provide information on where to fulfill that requirement locally, so keep any eye out for that info as you're researching BSN programs.
posted by vytae at 11:28 AM on September 30, 2008

I know SUNY Downstate and Columbia both have accelerated nursing programs for college graduates. NYU and Hunter both have respected nursing programs but I don't know if they offer a fast track program.

As you can imagine, tuition can range from $5,000 - $45,000 per year depending on whether you attend a public or a private nursing program. For the pre-rec's I'd recommend going public to save yourself some (a lot of) money.

Many people come to Hunter for pre-recs because the tuition is low and the program is quite good. They also offer free tutoring in the basic sciences. BMCC also offers the pre-recs even more inexpensively. The class in Anatomy & Physiology I took there was excellent and the location is very convenient.

In terms of working as a nursing assistant there are a number of jobs in the health care field that don't require any certification. Hunter's career center always has jobs postings for medical assistants, caretakers and nurses aides.

Whatever you choose, good luck!
posted by abirae at 12:21 PM on September 30, 2008

Here in NC several of the nursing schools located at hospitals offer full tuition reimbursement if you then work at their hospital for a certain number of years after graduation. I think the nursing shortage is pretty universal, so you could probably find one of those programs close to you.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:21 PM on September 30, 2008

Ten years after my wife graduated from a liberal arts college with a psychology degree, and after never really having found her calling, she went back to school and became an RN. That was 21 years ago.

I admire her so much for being in a profession where a single individual can make a real impression and positive contribution to the lives of others.

Like all jobs, nursing has its frustrations, but the good far outweighs the bad.

Go for it one way or another, and more power to you!
posted by imjustsaying at 3:15 PM on September 30, 2008

I'm an RN - your plan sounds like a good one. The thing about the road to becoming an nurse is IMHO this: it's an endurance test. You just have to keep plugging along until you get there. It will be difficult, weird, stupid, hard, confusing, discouraging, exciting and a million other things you never thought it would be along the way. Just keep going forward. You will get there before you know it.

Where I am community colleges have CNA programs and pre-req classes for nursing school - and they seem to be the least expensive way to go. Check with your state regarding certification rules. You have to get very good grades in your pre-reqs to get in to any nursing school. For many schools this is the only factor in considering who gets in and who does not. Nursing school is not really about nursing; you learn nursing when you start doing it. It's about learning how to pass your boards. Go to a school that has good pass rates. I really don't think it matters which school you get into, just as long as you get into one. When you apply for jobs they want someone who passed their boards and don't really care what school you went to.

Accellerated programs can be rough. It goes fast fast fast. If you go this route I suggest going to a school that lets you swap into the regular program if the accelerated is too quick for you. That way you have a safety net if you don't do well at the start. A lot of people don't do well at the start. Again, it's an endurance test. Just keep going, don't quit.

It's a great idea to work in a hospital as a CNA beforehand. vytae is right about the money CNA's make - it's not much. In my city it's anywhere from $6.50 to 12 / hr to start. Look for and apply for grants to help you out along the way. I don't know about your area specifically but CNA jobs seem to be plentiful because the job has a high turn-over rate; it's hard, doesn't pay so great. I doubt it would be hard to find something once you're certified. Check the job listings on the webpages of hospitals near you for nursing assistants.

All Nurses .com is a good resource for finding local information from others doing the same thing. Search around there some and see what you find.

4 CNAs .com for info on CNA programs and general CNA stuff.

NY Dept of Health Nurse Assistant page might be helpful.

Good luck!
posted by dog food sugar at 8:12 PM on September 30, 2008

Your plan sounds good.

If your current employment situation is stable, I might recommend you skip the interim CNA/nurses aide/tech part. I kept my 9-5 job and finished all my prereqs at a community college in night classes in 3 semesters (Fall, Winter, Spring-Summer). On the other hand, if you're not certain (hospital/floor) nursing is for you, working as a tech/aide is a fast, low-risk way make sure.

As dog_food_sugar said, accelerated programs can be rough and I'd recommend you do not try to work for those 12/18 months. Plan your finances accordingly. Acceptance into 2nd career programs is competitive and not purely grade-based so start working on your story now: start your volunteer work, start getting involved, start doing things that will distinguish you from other applicants. And you'll want to show you're comfortable putting in 60-70 hour weeks.

I did a 12 month, 2nd bachelors nursing program and it was the best of year my life. I hope yours will be too.
posted by klarck at 2:46 AM on October 1, 2008

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