It’s been about a month and a half now since I quit my job as a CNA and moved on to the big, bad world of being an RN. During my last few months as a CNA, I promised myself that I would never be “that” nurse. The one that under-appreciates, talks down to, thinks they’re better than, has no respect for, shows complete disregard for the time of, or just plain treats their CNA like they own them. Unfortunately, “that” nurse is more common that you’d think. And surprisingly enough, the “that” nurses that I’ve worked with were never CNA’s before they became nurses. Intriguing, eh? Judge as you may.
But since I think that the majority of people don’t know what a CNA really does, I decided that I would soon write a blog post about the truth. “The Truth about being a CNA – Secrets uncovered!” What a glorious title it was! But it sounded too dramatic, so I scrapped it.
During my last few weeks of being a CNA, during the wee hours of the morning on night shifts when I was most disgruntled and exhausted, I came up with a few slogans that should be used on posters or advertisements to draw people in to the exciting field of CNA-ery, whilst correctly informing. They are as follows:
- If you want ALL of your coworkers to think they’re your boss, become a CNA!
- If you want to be the absolute bottom of the totem pole, be a CNA!
- Do you want to work the hardest you’ve ever worked in your life for the littlest money you’ve ever earned? Then be a CNA!
- Don’t you want to be wildly under-appreciated by everyone you work with, then you should become a CNA!
- If you love bodily functions, you should consider becoming a CNA!
- If you think you can see the parts of people that no one wants to/should ever have to see without vomiting your brains out, being a CNA might be right for you! (Don’t these sound like ITT Tech or Steven's Henager commercials?)
(p.s. That picture is nothing like what CNA classes are like. My program was in the back of an old building in old Midvale, run by a husband and wife, and my instructor was a 65 year old LPN that smoked and was named Esther. I was one of the only people who spoke English in the class.)
This all sounds all kinds of negative, doesn’t it? I would like to be very clear here: I absolutely adored my job as a CNA. I was able to work with the sickest of the sick in a Level 1 Trauma Center Surgical ICU, and with old people in two different sub-acute rehab centers. I did it during both bachelor’s degrees over 3 years total. I worked days, nights, weekends, holidays, and back to back with school and class all the time. There was one instance where I didn’t sleep for 3 days and 2 nights straight because I had school during the day and work during the night. So I think it’s fair to say that I’ve earned my right to make credible statements about what it’s like to be a CNA.
Being a CNA is the absolute hardest job I’ve ever had. You work long hours, you’re on your feet the entire time, and depending on where you work, it can be extremely stressful. Sure, being a nurse is hard too, and you’re on your feet constantly too. But now that I’ve been both, there’s a reason why very few people are what we call “career CNA’s.”
Career CNA’s are a rare breed. They are the people who are CNA’s as a career and don’t intend on moving on to a different position. You see, the majority of people you run into that are CNA’s are planning on doing to nursing school, medical school, or something related to the medical field and are using the CNA position to get their foot in the door and get experience. But there’s a reason why they move on – because being a CNA is rrrrrough! That’s why I have even more respect for the career CNA’s; because in some instances, they are the best CNA’s I know and could work a 18-22 year old in their prime into the ground.
Since I feel like it’s my duty to pass along the knowledge I’ve gained, I would like to give a few points of advice both to people considering becoming CNA’s and to people considering becoming RN’s. They are as follows:
- Should you become a CNA if you’re considering/trying to go to Nursing school? A resounding YES! I didn’t learn how to be a nurse from nursing school. I learned how to become a nurse from my job as a CNA and from my on-hands internship (capstone) my last semester. Working as a CNA also let me see what being a nurse was like and cemented the decision to become a nurse in my mind.
- Why should you become a CNA first? Because there is no doubt that CNA’s make the best RN’s. If you already know the basics, you’re that far ahead of the competition. I pretty much didn’t have to study the first few months of nursing school because I had been a CNA. Plus, nursing schools are more likely to accept you if you were a CNA first.
- Should you continue to work as a CNA through nursing school? Everyone is different, but I would say yes. The reason why is because you get to see the things you’re learning about first hand, and if you’re a visual learner like me, reading about it in a book or hearing someone talk about it isn’t near as good as seeing and doing it yourself. Also, many places will hire their CNA’s when they graduate nursing school, so you have a foot in the door and a guaranteed job!