A CNA, or certified nursing assistant, is often a stepping stone position in the healthcare industry. This is a position that can be obtained rather quickly through local training and education courses which makes it an excellent way to break into other healthcare positions. Many will go from a CNA to a registered nurse (RN) after spending at least a year or two in the CNA position. CNAs perform several similar tasks to RNs, but it does require more qualifications and an advanced level of responsibility to the patient. If you are thinking about making this professional transition yourself, there are a few points to keep in mind as you review your options for CNA to RN programs.
CNA to RN Bridge Programs
The average income for a CNA is approximately $30,000, and the average salary for an RN is approximately $68,000, depending on your market. Thus it may be financially beneficial to take the steps advance from the CNA to RN status. There are also plenty of other good reasons to make the jump to become an RN including:
- Better job security
- More schedule flexibility
- Better job opportunities geographically
- Increased patient responsibility
To make this transition, a CNA does not have to start from scratch for training. Many basic nursing skills are covered in CNA training programs, meaning that a CNA looking to become an RN has many foundational skills. To bridge the skills gap and obtain an RN certification, there are CNA to RN bridge programs, sometimes also called ladder programs. These are specialized educational programs that provide you with credits for your professional work experience as a CNA. When you complete the program you will have an associate degree in nursing, which is a starting requirement to becoming a registered nurse.
A bridge program can help you to become an RN much more quickly by fast-tracking your associate’s degree, and they can also save you money by reducing your educational costs. In fact, some of these programs may shorten the length of time you are in school by half. While becoming an RN can normally take up to 2 years, a CNA may be able to complete an RN program in a year to a year and a half.
Typical CNA to RN Bridge Program Requirements
Before you make the decision to pursue a bridge program for your career advancement, you must first determine if you are eligible for the program. Each program is different, so it is important to shop around and compare programs. However, most do have at least some of the same general requirements. For example, they may require that you are 18 years old, that you have completed a CNA training program and that you have professional experience working as a CNA. In addition, they may have educational requirements, such as a high school diploma or GED, a specific score on your SAT or ACT and more. Each program across each state has varying starting requirements.
What to Expect From a Bridge Program
A CNA to RN bridge program may be shorter in length and more affordable, but it also will fully prepare you to be a registered nurse. You will learn about everything from anatomy and physiology to biology and chemistry and more. Typical curriculum topics may include microbiology, nutrition, the relationship of organisms, human anatomy, applied math, being part of a nursing team, medical-surgical nursing, pediatric care, pharmacology, psychiatric nursing, and ethics. You will have laboratory sessions and hands-on training sessions with actual patients in a clinical setting as your training and education advances. The bridge program may eliminate some of the time spent in the classroom, but you can rest assured that you will be fully prepared for a career as a registered nurse after you graduate from the program.
How to Pay For Your Bridge Program
After you have decided to pursue a CNA to RN program, you must then decide how you will pay for your education. These programs generally are not cheap, so you need an excellent strategy in place for paying for your program. Generally, CNA to RN Bridge programs can cost anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000 per year, depending on the school. Taking out a student loan is one option to consider, but it is not the only option. Some employers have tuition assistance or reimbursement available. You can also look for scholarships and grants. Some students will also pay for their classes out of their own pocket. Some of these schools offer online courses which might be more feasible options for some students’ schedules. Taking a slow and steady route and attending school part-time while you work can make it easier for you to pay for your bridge program out of your own pocket.
The Final Step: The National Council Licensure Examination
With an associate’s degree obtained through your ladder program, the final step to moving from a CNA to an RN is to pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Most aspiring RNs prepare three to six months for this exam. The test itself can be between 75 and 265 questions based on the exam software.
While the testing for becoming a CNA largely focuses on basic care for patients, the NCLEX-RN exam moves into more complex categories such as:
- Health Promotion and Maintenance
- Psychosocial Integrity
- Safe, Effective Care Environment
- Physiological Integrity
- Take the Next Step
Becoming an RN is a future career goal for many CNAs. From the increased income to the more significant career opportunities, there are many advantages available for those who pursue an RN degree. If you are already a CNA, you have already gotten most of the first foundational steps out of the way to become an RN. Now you can enroll in a bridge program to take your career to the next level if you choose to do so.