Where can I go to become a certified nursing assistant in the MD/DC/VA area for cheap/free?
December 15, 2009 8:29 AM   Subscribe

MD-DC-VA-Suburbs filter: Where can I go to become a certified nursing assistant for a cheaper/subsidized/free price?

I am in the process of applying to pharmacy school for the entrance in the fall of 2010. In the mean time, I am thinking of becoming a certified nursing assistant. I'm thinking that this way, I could finish the cna program and work perhaps 5 months or so until school starts. The program at the community colleges I've checked out cost $880. Anybody know if I could get this cheaper or specifically free? I live in the MD-DC-VA area. I was planning on getting a retail job/restaurant gig and have already applied but it's seems like I'd get more out of this in the long run career wise by always having a back-up plan for employment in the future. Plus it's in health care related field/track tied with my future goals as a pharmacist (even though they are different areas). But I was thinking that in the summers I could do some contract work to earn money as a cna. I've already tried applying for pharmacy-retail-jobs but there aren't any openings and they want certification which costs 200 bucks to take the pharm tech test and there is no guarantee there's even an available opening for a job. It's kinda of hit and miss depending on where you go. I've applied to grocery stores and drug chains. They all want experience or a commitment of like more than 6 months, and ideally like one or more years. There's also a pharm tech school but I just think it's so far away and costs easily more than a 1,000 bucks, which would be good for pharm school but it's 6 months and people say you can just try to get hired in the pharmacy cashier for a few months and work your way up to being a tech when a spot opens.

So besides asking where I can go to have this class/certification at a lower cost/free cost, I'm wondering what else do I need to know about becoming a certified nursing assistant? Will I have clean feces and wipe people's butts? I guess that was one concern I had. I can deal, but I just would like a heads up on it. Also, there are jobs right? I don't want to presume... and spend almost a grand on this.

Just want some input on this idea. Anybody go through becoming a certified nursing assistant and get contracted for work? Do you have to re-certify or pay money again to pass tests every year?

Oh and this is anonymous because I'm paranoid that someone is going to link me and my username as a "bad" employee for not wanting to deal with the crap stuff. AND most importantly, I'm still in the process of applying for pharmacy school and don't want anything to jilt my chances no matter how slight. The internet/text is public property once it goes out (ie. Tiger Woods).
posted by anonymous to Education (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You need to do some more thinking about this. Please visit your local workforce development/workforce investment board for information about training options in your area. The staff there are skilled in locating assistance programs for tuition and programs that match your interests and the community's need for hiring.

Please do some research on the job itself. Do you know what they make? In my metro area, you're lucky to get $10/hour as a CNA in any type of environment (hospital, doctor's office, care facilities). The job usually involves assisting people in their ADLs (bathing, toileting, eating) and you will be doing a lot of cleaning up of accidents and messes of the biological type. If you work in a doctor's office, you may just be relegated to taking BPs and other slightly more clinical tasks, but your hours will be limited to the office hours. You will not have any type of authority in decision making. You will take orders and do your job. If you are not a person who really cares about people, and taking care of people, don't do it.
posted by FergieBelle at 8:45 AM on December 15, 2009

Yes, you will clean up pee and poo. All the time. If you are working in a hospital or nursing home you will be doing this non-stop. Also vomit and occasionally blood.

It's a great, great step into nursing school but I'm not sure what help it will do for you for pharmacy school. Might help on your application but I dont' think you'll learn much that will be helpful for school other than a very basic understanding of how a hospital works.

Also it tends to pay not that great.

I found a free program in Maine and there seemed to be quite a few around...sometimes you had to wait.

Honestly given your situation, I'd try temping in the meantime. Unless you might be interested in nursing, where I'd definitely suggest it (I didn't end up doing the CNA program and people in my nursing program who did were light years ahead of me and still are).
posted by sully75 at 9:26 AM on December 15, 2009

Believe it or not, you may not even need certification. It'll be easier to get that first job, but if you put on your resume that you're a pharmacy student, can take blood pressure, and have CPR certification (free or cheap by red cross or local community center), you might get a few call backs. As I understand it, this is all a certification program will teach you.

It's basically untrained, shot jockey, work. If you like sticking needles into screaming kids, cleaning up bodily fluids, and have a high school diploma, you're qualified. (You do get to wear basically PJs to work, so thats a plus)

If you did want to go to school before 2010, I'd recommend a Phlebotomy course instead. It may make you more attractive to a future hospital/nursing home employer after you finish pharm. school. Also, as a kind of backwards logic, if you are a practicing phlebotomist as a nurse, lab tech, or med tech, for one year, you can become a certified phlebotomist very easily. I could not find prices at the NOVA website, but they do have courses in it.

Either way, look for work, maybe even just phone answering, at a research/clinical trial office. That would be the most tangentially related to pharmacy.

And nothing related to jobs is ever guaranteed, especially now. Be suspicious of programs wishing to part you from your money in exchange for a job "opportunity".
posted by fontophilic at 9:55 AM on December 15, 2009

Listen to the people above. You will not be a nurse. You will be a certified nurse assistant. This means you aren't doing things which nurses do, you're doing things that are too menial to waste a nurse's time on, i.e. moving people and things around, serving food, and cleaning up piss. And you'll get paid $10-12/hr for the privilege. The one thing you will not be doing is anything that requires even an approximation of professional judgment.

More to the point, this has absolutely nothing to do with pharmacy. The two aren't even remotely related, despite their location in the health care industry. Pharm techs assist pharmacists. CNAs assist nurses. Pharmacists and nurses rarely have anything to do with each other.

Something else: the lower-end health care jobs are actually kind of going away. CNAs and LPNs are being phased out in hospitals in exchange for more qualified personnel, like RNs and PAs. Currently, the only places hiring CNAs and LPNs with any regularity are nursing homes, which have an abundance of mouths to feed and asses to wipe, but not much else. A resident gets sick, they go to the hospital.

I concur with the above respondents: you need to think about this some more, and not just in financial terms either. See if you can get in touch with a vocational counselor. Most municipalities and county governments have them.
posted by valkyryn at 10:46 AM on December 15, 2009

I'd take a pharmacy tech job.

I'm a pharmacist working in VA. Most pharmacy students work, and many pharmacy schools require some kind of practical experience outside of school during the program. So if you get into pharmacy school, a tech job is probably in your future. Why not get one now?

Yes, you have to pay to take the certification exam but you can spend 6 months working before you do that. I am a big fan of the "learn while you earn" approach. Pharmacy school is HARD. The familiarity you gain with the drugs while working as a tech is invaluable. And yes, even working the cash register at a pharmacy will help you.
posted by selfmedicating at 11:03 AM on December 15, 2009

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