Many people who are interested in nursing as a career start their path as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). If you are a CNA interested in taking the next step to become an LPN/LVN or RN, here are six important things you need to know to help you prepare:
Both CNAs and RNs often work together in hospitals, medical centers or clinics, nursing homes, or physicians’ offices. However, as an LPN or RN you may have greater flexibility and choice in where you work based on your experience and specializations. RNs and LPNs may work in specialty departments, schools, the military, or in unique environments as a travel or flight nurse.
CNAs may work under the direct supervision of an RN or LPN, but CNA vs. RN job duties can be different. Like other nurses, CNAs help patients with basic living activities such as bathing, getting dressed, using the toilet, and eating and drinking. They also take vital signs such as temperature and blood pressure.
RNs may help with these tasks, but there is a difference in day-to-day tasks. RNs may spend more time assessing patients’ unique health problems and needs, providing medical instructions, tracking health histories, and interacting with physicians and families on patients’ care plans.
CNA training can be completed fairly quickly. After this, graduates may take a state licensing exam so they have the best credentials to apply for jobs.
RNs typically need two to four years of schooling—depending on their degree and how many credits they take. They can earn their associate degree in nursing (ADN/ASN) in about two years or their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in about four years. After their schooling is completed, they may take the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses exam (NCLEX-RN). This exam tests them on the application and analysis using the nursing knowledge they gained in school.
Overall, it can take about 2-5 years to take all the necessary steps to become a registered nurse, depending on many potential factors.
Students may also choose to pursue a diploma in practical nursing to take classes to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN). These programs generally take 12 months and prepare students to take the National Council Licensing Examination for Practical Nurses exam (NCLEX-PN). Learn more about the difference between LPNs and RNs.
As an RN, you have the opportunity to advance your nursing career and improve patient care by pursuing a variety of specializations that are of interest to you. Some possible nursing specialties include:
- Traveling nurse
- Neonatal (NICU)
- Flight nurse
- Aesthetic/Cosmetic nurse
- Surgical / scrub nurse
- Assisted living
Earning an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing and become an RN opens up many different career opportunities you may pursue.
Stepping up from CNA to LPN to RN represents leaps in not only in job responsibilities and opportunities, but also in potential pay.
Because of the high demand for all healthcare occupations, projected by the BLS to be a 14% increase from 2018-2028, the need for CNAs, LPNs and RNs is expected to continue rising.
By continuing to grow your nursing career you can increase the likelihood of finding a good job and get paid well to do it.
How long it takes to go from CNA to RN depends on the educational path you choose. Herzing University has a variety of programs to choose from, including:
- A practical nursing diploma program for those looking to start their career in nursing as a PN/LPN.
- An associate in nursing program for CNAs seeking a 2-year program to step towards becoming an RN.
- A bachelor’s in nursing program (available both online and on-campus) for those considering becoming an RN and possibly work towards a master’s degree in nursing in the future.
If you aren't completely sold on nursing, you may consider an alternative pathway, such as CNA to medical assistant. That could open doors to other types of careers in allied health.
There are many unique options – check out all of our available online & on-campus nursing programs. Availability varies by campus location.