You’ll get some experience as a CNA when you do your clinical training during your schooling. Home health care companies, hospitals and nursing homes often look at your previous work and volunteer experience when making hiring decisions. In addition to training, that experience can come from many different avenues working directly in the medical field or in other industries.
Non-Certified Medical Jobs
You can gain first-hand experience in a clinical setting by working first as an orderly, personal assistant or attendant. You don’t need to have the same kind of credentials that you do as a certified nursing aide, or CNA. As an orderly in a nursing home or hospital, you won’t be involved in taking care of patients, but you can assist with transporting them, reading to patients or cleaning. You’ll learn your way around the facility, however, and get most of your training on the job. The experience prepares you for more direct contact work when you get your certification.
Any significant contact you’ve had with nursing homes or assisted living facilities, hospital or hospice centers counts towards your CNA job qualifications. Most hospitals have an active volunteer program in many areas of the facility. You’ll undergo rigorous training in patient confidentiality issues and other medical instructions before you can serve on those volunteer committees. Hospice centers and nursing homes rely on volunteers to visit with patients, provide transportation or bring in entertainment. Put every volunteer activity on your resume.
Many people turn to the CNA field after direct experience helping family members. Whether you helped your grandmother in her final days to get around the house, take her medication and prepare meals, or stepped up when your sister was immobilized after a car accident – that counts as caregiving experience. Talk about the work you did with family members in the interview and share with the interviewer how the experience shaped your view of caregiving, and how you realized you were good at it after taking care of a family member.
You don’t want to give transferable skills short shrift when applying for CNA jobs. There are plenty of skills you need to be successful in the field in addition to taking vitals and cleaning and bathing immobile patients. Highlight the organizational skills you honed while working in an office or during your studies. Focus on the excellent customer service skills you developed while working at a fast food restaurant or talk about your ability to work independently after running your own business. Use those strengths on your resume and in the interview to answer questions about your previous experience.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."