How to Make the Switch from CNA to RN

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Ready to make the switch from CNA to RN? Learn some of the differences between CNA vs. RN, the steps towards becoming an registered nurse, and how the Accelerated BSN program at CSP Global will prepare you on an accelerated timeline.

class of nursing students

Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is an excellent way to enter nursing. It allows you to work in healthcare and help people without completing a four-year nursing program. However, a survey showed that the percentage of nurses with Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees has increased to over 70% in 2023. Many hospitals now require that their nurses obtain a BSN or be registered nurses (RNs) before applying.

As the outlook of nursing changes, many CNAs are considering switching from CNA to RN. Since this career change is not a lateral move, additional education and certification requirements will be required. However, you might want to return to school for less than four years to earn your BSN. Luckily, many other options exist for applying your education and nursing experience toward becoming a registered nurse.

With CSP Global’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, you can complete your BSN program in as few as 16 months. Discover why this is to your advantage and how it can accelerate your path from CNA to RN.

What is the Difference Between CNA vs. RN?

nurses in sim lab

Before diving into how to transition from CNA to RN, let’s discuss what they are and what sets them apart from one another. CNAs typically complete a short state-approved education program available within high schools, community colleges, vocational/technical schools, hospitals, or nursing homes and pass their state’s competency exam. Registered nurses usually take one of three education paths: a bachelor’s degree in nursing, an associate’s degree in nursing, or a diploma from an approved nursing program. Registered nurses must be licensed, coordinate complex patient care, and educate patients and the public about various health conditions.

There are a few things to note if you consider changing roles. RNs have a broader scope in what they can do than CNAs. They are licensed by a regulatory body and can have 2 to 4 years of education, which includes science and liberal arts. Nurses have a specific scope of practice determined by the state. They are the decision-makers and can work independently. RNs and physicians delegate basic care and activities of daily living to CNAs. CNAs and nurses require excellent communication skills, patience, compassion, and physical stamina.

In terms of education, the road to becoming a CNA and RN is quite different. CNAs undergo a certification training program to enter the workplace. They have minimal to no education in the sciences but focus on patient care and nursing practice. They do not earn any licensing. RNs take in-depth courses in science, humanities, and nursing practice. When they graduate, they take the NCLEX-RN® exam that allows them to practice as a licensed nurse professional.

What Do CNA Graduates Do?

On a typical day, CNAs provide essential basic patient care and any assistance other nurses need. This might mean giving patients transport and meals, filling out logs, cleaning, and stocking supplies. They provide care to fulfill the basic needs of any functioning facility. CNAs can work in hospitals and alternative nursing positions like nursing and assisted living facilities.

What Do RN Graduates Do?

Since RNs are academically educated to care for complex patients, families, and entire populations, they are highly sought after and will have more options. The National Institutes of Health reports that when nurses have achieved a BSN-level education, it can positively affect patient outcomes compared to lower levels of education.

Concordia St. Paul ABSN student standing in front of university logo

Registered nurses can work in a hospital setting, caring for patients, providing care, administering medication, and much more. RNs may work in the ICU, labor and delivery, pediatrics, hospice or other hospital areas if they pursue specialized certification. They also can work in public health and other community-based roles to improve healthcare delivery, healthcare policy, and health resources.

1. Choose a BSN Program

To become a registered nurse, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree. However, if you have already been working as a CNA and know if you have a passion for caring for others., then that is a great start to prepare you for your academic journey to become an RN. With the completion of prerequisite courses, you can be on your way to starting your professional nursing career.

At CSP Global, our ABSN program is ideal for transitioning from CNA to BSN on an accelerated timeline. CSP’s ABSN makes it possible to graduate ready to sit for the NCLEX-RN® in 16 months by leveraging students’ previous college credits so they can focus exclusively on a nursing-specific curriculum. Also, three yearly start dates — in January, May and September — and multiple learning site locations mean you can potentially start sooner than with many other nursing programs.

2. Complete Your BSN Degree

Once you enroll in a BSN program, you will gain all the knowledge and clinical experience you need to be a fully qualified nurse. You can expect to participate in nursing coursework, skills labs on campus, and clinical learning experiences including high-fidelity simulation!

During nursing school, explore and ask as many questions as possible. This will help equip you to be the best nurse you can be and help you discover which path you want to take in your career as a registered nurse.

Want to know how to succeed in nursing school? Here are ten pieces of advice for nursing students.

students studying in common room

3. Take Your Licensing Exam

The final step between you and a career as an RN is completing your licensing and certification. This can be done by registering to take the NCLEX-RN exam. This test determines your competency to practice safely as a registered nurse. Nursing school will help you prepare for the exam, but you must ensure that you work hard to study throughout your program and up to your test date.

4. Find a Job as a Registered Nurse

Once you have finished your degree and passed your licensure exam, you will be ready to enter the field as a registered nurse professional. While many options are available to you as an RN, nurses usually decide to start their journey in a hospital setting. Many students can network for future careers at CSP during clinical learning experiences. Some are even offered positions at these hospitals once they graduate.

nurses standing at desk counter

Why Choose CSP’s Accelerated BSN Program

Preparing for and applying to nursing school can seem daunting for many prospective students, especially if getting someone on the phone can be challenging. We do things a little differently from most schools. When you call with an interest in the CSP ABSN, you’ll be assigned a dedicated admissions counselor who will guide you through every step of the process so that you can focus on what matters — getting into nursing school.

They will help you complete all the necessary admissions requirements to ensure you have the required prerequisite courses.

Contact with your admissions counselor doesn’t end with a step-by-step to-do list. Throughout the admissions process — which includes submitting past transcripts and fulfilling any prerequisites — you’ll be in regular communication with your enrollment specialist to ensure everything you do increases your chances of getting into nursing school.

Over 16 months, you’ll learn nursing skills through a combination of:

  • Online coursework focused on nursing theory and the issues facing the healthcare industry.
  • Applied skills labs where you’ll hone essential skills like inserting IVs and catheters, giving shots, and conducting nursing assessments; and labs where you’ll participate in simulations of nursing care s designed to prepare you for clinical learning experiences.
  • Clinical learning experiences that allow you to work and interact with actual patients in myriad settings, as well as the opportunity to network with nurses in the field.
nurse in front of sign

And because your success is our mission, you’ll be assigned an academic advisor who will check in with you regularly throughout your time in our ABSN to be sure you have what you need to succeed.

Ready to Make the Switch to a Career in Nursing?

Ready to make the change from CNA to RN? Call us today to talk to an admissions counselor or fill out the form to have someone call you and determine whether CSP Global’s Accelerated BSN is right for you.