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How to Begin Your Nursing Career before Graduation

Few professions offer the chance to begin a career while still in school—one of those is nursing. Therefore, the possibility that potential nurses have of working in the nursing field during or even before nursing school is an opportunity that simply cannot be missed. By doing so, nursing students or those considering nursing school can see first-hand what the profession is truly like and decide whether or not it’s for them.

Furthermore, as with most professions, nursing is incredibly diverse. Many people, including nurses, work their entire careers in one area and never get to experience other settings or specialties – possibly missing out on discovering their true-life passions. Therefore, accruing a wealth of experiences before graduating from nursing school can help you determine what type of work you would like to pursue after graduation.  

Aside from getting to know the profession and discovering your work preferences, working in the nursing field will help you make sense of what you’re learning by putting theory into practice in a real-world setting. Granted, clinical rotations offer similar experiences, but these typically don’t begin until junior or even senior year. Furthermore, the knowledge and insights you glean from working in the field will no doubt help you become a top-notch student from the get-go – scholarship anyone?  

Finally, speaking of financing your degree, working through nursing school is an excellent way to reduce or even avoid student debt altogether.

How Can I Work in the Nursing Field Before Becoming a Nurse?

When we speak of working through nursing school, we are referring to working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) on the road to becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN).

It might seem counterintuitive to train for one position when we really hope to work in another, but it is possible to train to become a CNA in as little as four weeks. This qualification will then allow you to work in the field throughout your one to four years of nursing school depending on what type of nurse you are training to become – and don’t forget the host of advantages to working in the field while studying.

Once you obtain your nursing assistant certification, you will be ready to find work. An excellent way to work while in school is to pick up PRN shifts, or temporary shifts on demand, which you can easily schedule around your classes.

How Can I Juggle Work in Addition to School?

The ideal work-to-study ratio will be different for each person. For some people, it might be necessary to study part-time and work part-time or even work full-time in order to cover living expenses and/or the cost of school. For others with more financial support, it might be possible to study full-time and pick up occasional PRN shifts when school schedules permit doing so.

Whether you are studying part-time or full-time, PRN jobs will allow you to work around your school schedule so that you never have to sacrifice classes, clinical rotations, or other valuable school experiences, such as conferences, fairs, or other extracurricular activities.

Another important consideration before setting work goals is to first get a feel for each semester. Don’t set yourself up for failure! It is important to be realistic about the amount of time you will need for school each semester before deciding how much you can work.

Make Sure You Don't Burn Out

Don’t lose sight of the fact that working through school is meant to make the experience more meaningful for you, not cause you to have a stroke in your twenties!  

Remember that each semester is different: some semesters are busier than others; some classes or specific professors are more demanding than average. You might have semesters in which you cannot realistically work. This is OK; every problem has multiple solutions. You could focus on your studies during challenging semesters and then work full-time over the following summer or during other school breaks. You could move back in with family if you were already living on your own in order to reduce living expenses and therefore the need to work during the semester.   

Furthermore, make sure you factor in time to rest and unwind as an essential part of your schedule. If you work over the summers, consider taking at least a full week off work and all other obligations before starting a new semester to recharge energy and motivation for the next leg of the journey. Moreover, try to give yourself one day per week or at least once every two weeks to do something completely unrelated to school or work: go on a hike, attend a yoga retreat, take a cooking class, or even just binge a good show – basically, allow yourself to temporarily shut down areas of your brain that are normally working in overdrive.  

How Can I Find PRN Work to Begin a Nursing Career?

Once you complete CNA training and are ready to begin your career in the nursing field, you can use the Nursa healthcare staffing app to pick up as many PRN shifts as you like. After downloading the app, answering some questions, and uploading your certification, you will be able to browse all the available PRN shifts for CNAs in your area and request the jobs you are interested in. Try to pick up shifts in as many settings as possible – hospitals, nursing homes, rehab facilities, etc. – to see which work environment you find most fulfilling. Keep notes on your experiences to keep track of your areas of interest as well as areas in your reject pile. Also write down any questions that come up during your work to ask your professors. Remember that working as a CNA throughout nursing school is as much a way to learn about the nursing profession and way of life as it is a way to make money, so try to see each shift as an opportunity for personal and professional growth. You won’t regret it.  

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Blog published on:
August 8, 2022

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