Should I take a risk and be certified as a nursing assistant or not?
March 3, 2010 8:33 AM   Subscribe

Massachusetts nurses help please! I'm planning on leaving my job to go back to school for nursing. Should I work as a CNA beforehand or would it be a waste of time and money?

There have been similar questions asked, but I'm hoping for an opinion from people in the healthcare field in Massachusetts.

I'm 23, female, have a BA in Spanish, and need to take serveral prerequsite courses before I can apply to an accelerated BSN program. Currently working full time with full benefits & paying high rent in Boston. I plan on moving home to live rent free while taking the prerequisites part-time (will take ~10 months). I'd have some expenses. For various reasons, I cannot keep this job while taking the courses. I will have time to take a CNA course (costs $800) to be certified in MA.
Other facts: I'm positive I want to do this. I'm currently volunteering in a hospital. I need to do this now, since I can be covered under parent's health insurance at some point in the next year due to my age.

My questions:

-Should I pay the $800 to be certified even though I'm technically overqualified and would be taking a pay cut? Would the experience be worth it/improve my BSN program application?
-Will I have trouble finding a CNA position this summer in Boston/Merrimack Valley area? (Preferably working enough hours to qualify for health insurance) *Big worry*
-Should I drop the CNA idea and try to find some other part-time job in a hospital?

Thank you.
posted by kmavap to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Would it be working as a CNA solely to increase your chances of admission into the BSN program, or is it something you actually want to do? Or does your program have a clinical experience requirement for admission?
posted by halogen at 9:51 AM on March 3, 2010

Response by poster: There is no requirement to work as a CNA, but I assume it would help my application. I want to do it, just nervous the time spent in the class + $800 investment wouldn't be worth it.
posted by kmavap at 10:00 AM on March 3, 2010

I sent you mefi mail. Good luck!
posted by Gable Oak at 10:54 AM on March 3, 2010

Best answer: I can't speak for Massachusetts, but increasingly in Illinois, we are requiring CNA licensure for applicants to our nursing programs. Oftentimes, potential students who already have some kind of medical certification (CNA, EMT, etc.) will also receive extra points in the ranking of applicants.

As a school that has recently adopted this requirement, we've found requiring the CNA helps us avoid the initial "Omg, I actually have to touch people!" reaction we've had from nursing students who quickly dropped out of the program in the past.

On the other hand, our nursing instructors do occasionally complain of having trouble getting CNAs to "think" like nurses as far as critical thinking and decision making goes. They often want a nurse to make decisions for them rather than act the part of the nurse themselves.
posted by iceprincess324 at 1:27 PM on March 3, 2010

Best answer: In the post-bacc nursing program I'm in right now, about half the students were CNAs first. They seemed to have a MUCH easier time for the first couple months of clinical rotations, because they were used to touching people, used to going into people's rooms to do things that are annoying but necessary, etc. Even just getting some of the hospital jargon and roles into your head helps a lot, like what's a HUC or a charge nurse or whatever.

Now that we're all several months into the program, I think the differences have mostly evened out. But if I could do it all over again, I think the CNA track would have prevented so much stress and worry for me. It sucks to feel uncomfortable and incompetent when you're new, and then it's doubly bad when you feel like your fellow students aren't struggling the way you are. Would I pay $800 to get rid of that stress? I'm not sure, but I can tell you I spent several months being jealous of the people who had done the CNA stuff.

Another point in the "pro" column for getting the certification is that it will give you a chance to find out whether you really like working with people in a healthcare setting. Better to learn that the answer is "no" after $800 in CNA classes, than after 10 months and thousands of dollars in prerequisites, plus the stress of applications.
posted by vytae at 1:49 PM on March 3, 2010

I don't know about Mass. but I've known a couple people who've got their CNA training through getting a job at a nursing home. This might be out of date since that it was about 10 years ago but most of the nursing homes around here were offering the classes. Try looking at want ads for the area you want to work and see if they offer paid training or tuition reimbursement.

By the way, my friend did go on to be a nurse. The other person I knew was just doing it as a temp job.
posted by stray thoughts at 4:26 PM on March 3, 2010

I think the best reason to do it is to get a taste for what health care is all about. Still, you may be able to do that without a $800 class by getting a job as a tech at a hospital. I believe (at least in NY) you only need CPR to be a tech, and they'll do the rest of the training in house.
posted by brevator at 5:07 AM on March 4, 2010

It's a good idea for many of the reasons stated above. Something else to consider: Student Nurse jobs. Where I am in Houston TX a lot of the hospitals have Student Nurse positions that are basically CNA positions. Often RNs will offer the student nurse multiple chances to gather skills: putting in foley's, drawing labs, and other stuff under RN supervision. It's like a CNA job plus RN tutoring. I did this in an ER while in school and found it very helpful. You don't need to pay for CNA certification either. The job listings are usually:

PSN: Professional Student Nurse
Student Nurse Extern / Intern

I would check your local hospital listings for these. Your nursing school grades usually have to be good.

Phlebotimist (check and see if the certification is more reasonable) can be another good pre-RN job. I also think the Unit Secretaries who enter the labs and call for consults have a good start because they can see the progression of care and learn what labs are usually ordered for what conditions. No certification for that job needed, but it would be a good experience and not so physically taxing.

I think Sully75 is a mefi nursing student in the Boston area - you might ask him his local experience if he doesn't pop in this thread.
posted by dog food sugar at 1:31 PM on March 4, 2010

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