I started my nursing career training as a certified nurse assistant (CNA). I enjoyed interacting with patients, and I was lucky enough to work with nurses and providers who did not mind teaching me a thing or two about diseases and symptoms. I quickly discovered that working in long-term care or assisted living can be physically demanding and often less exciting than working in a clinic or hospital. Unfortunately, some nurses and doctors will "talk down" to you and treat you like you are "nothing" because you are on the low end of nursing. But, please do not be discouraged by this. You will find people like that no matter what profession you choose. You have to be a "people" person. This is not the type of work you sign up for to make a lot of money. Typically, you will be undervalued, underpaid, and overworked. However, since the pandemic, there has been a massive jump in pay and it is an easy field to get into. There are opportunities to work full-time, part-time, as needed (PRN), and travel nursing.
If you are interested in the medical field, working as a CNA is a fast and easy way into that environment without investing a whole lot of time and money in education. I would do a little research. There may be hospitals in your area that will hire and train you so you can earn while you learn. I just researched Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College near you and they offer training for $610 which is cheaper than the Nurse Assistant Training (NATs) program I went through about 15 years ago here in Tennessee. I hope this helps. ---Kimberly S, RN
Ashley Holsten-O'Bryan, RN
Sometimes, a CNA is known by other titles. This includes: STNA, Patient Care Technician (PCT), Patient Care Assistant (PCA). Before becoming a Registered Nurse, I was required to take a CNA course and obtain my state certification. This also allowed me to work as a CNA while I was in school to become an RN.
This is the vital information I learned AFTER becoming a CNA and working as one in Home Healthcare for 5 years and then working at a Hospital on an Inpatient Stroke and PCU unit for 2 years:
- Job flexibility (alternative working schedules and job complexity) is typically low. Most nursing aides, assistants work full time, usually from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., according to USANEWS Career Choices Reviews. When I worked in Home Health, I worked 12 hour shifts 7am-7pm or 7pm-7am, typically 3 days a week. When I worked at the hospital, my schedule was typically from 3pm-11pm, working 4 days a week (occasionally 5).
-There are time-management issues on the job itself just because there are so many things to be completed in a small amount of time on a CNA's typical shift, especially when you consider some patients or residents are total-care (meaning they require complete care, from bathing, getting out of bed, walking, toileting, feeding, etc.). Imagine everything that you do for yourself once you get out of bed in the morning. And just envision doing that for another person; that times eight or 10, or however many patients or residences you have on your assignment. Home health is typically easier because you can focus on one client. When working at a hospital or nursing home, you will always have more patients and residents assigned to you. At the hospital, I typically had 8 patients on days or 12 patients if I worked the night shift.
-Some of the best nurses I have worked with were former nursing assistants. They seem to understand how hard the job can be, and are more willing to help, less micromanaging, and they typically just have better overall empathy for their CNA coworkers.
-Develop good self-care practices to help avoid burnout. Finding effective ways to take care of yourself and let go of work-related tension helps manage exhaustion & support your mental health. Self-care may include getting a good night’s sleep, sticking to a regular exercise routine, meditating, practicing mindfulness, and more.
-Remember that charting is so important and always chart EVERYTHING you did or didn't do (if it was required but for example, maybe the patient refused...this needs to be charted!). You are putting your certification and job at jeopardy as well as the RN or LPN, if you do not chart properly and carefully.
-The certified nursing assistant position is a physically demanding job. If you don't have the capability to work a physically demanding job, then you will struggle to care for you patients or residents properly.
-The job is emotionally demanding. Many of these patients and residents are very ill or near the end of their lives, which can be emotionally burdensome for healthcare workers.
I could go on and on, but those are the thoughts that stood out in my mind after reading your question!
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