Becoming a nurse is a goal of many individuals. However, some may not have the luxury to become a nurse right out of high school. Financial and familial constraints may not allow people to complete a demanding associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree nursing program. Also, some aren’t 100% sure they want to become a nurse, so they may choose to “get their feet wet” by first becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA).
Certified nursing assistants are the front-line staff in patient care. They are responsible for many duties, including taking vital signs, assisting with patient mobility, assisting with feeding, documenting intake and output, hygiene, and sometimes basic wound care. CNAs learn a great deal about nursing, mainly because they work so closely with RNs and LVN/LPNs. Nursing programs are aware of this, and some offer bridging or a CNA to RN program so that nursing assistants can take that next step into registered nursing.
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Benefits of CNA to RN Programs
CNA to RN programs allow nurse assistants to enroll in the RN program and not have to repeat unnecessary courses. An RN program can take between two and four years to complete. For CNAs entering the RN program, the time to completion is reduced, sometimes by about six months. In fact, many CNA courses are transferable to RN programs.
Additionally, nurse assistants gain critical bedside experience needed to become an RN. They already have the foundation in place. New nursing students who have never worked in patient care may feel a little intimidated in the beginning. Working as a CNA before nursing school can reduce these feelings, as students may have a better understanding of what to expect.
How CNA to RN Programs Work
CNA to RN programs work in a few different ways. First, RN programs may offer a “bridge.” In other words, courses taken in a CNA program can be transferred and applied towards the nursing program. CNA programs include courses such as:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Personal care/patient hygiene
- Environmental care (e., bedmaking)
- Vital signs
- Special needs care
- Care of the patient with specific disorders (e.g., diabetes, neurological disorders, etc.)
- Medical terminology
These concepts are introduced either as a prerequisite to nursing programs, or in the first semester of nursing programs. Therefore, CNAs have an advantage when applying for nursing school.
Another method of pursuing an RN degree is to “test out” of required prerequisite courses. Many times, nurse assistants who have been at the bedside for several years or more have gained the essential knowledge needed, and therefore taking certain prerequisite courses are unnecessary. There are a few test prep programs available, such as the one by Achieve Test Prep.
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Returning to school is a momentous decision. Often, those looking to advance their education or degree are already working or raising families. Therefore, some level of flexibility is needed to make it work. Thankfully, in today’s digital age some RN courses can be completed online. While the clinical portion of the nursing program needs to be on-site, nursing theory and prerequisites can be done via distance learning.
This is extremely beneficial for those in a CNA to RN program. Even for those looking to “test out” of certain courses have an advantage, as test preps can be done online or via a “hybrid” option.