CNA vs. RN: What’s the Difference?

Nursing is one of the most impactful fields in healthcare. The field is growing every year as healthcare needs increase around the world. Nurses work day in and day out to provide care for their patients. In the United States, there are currently more than 3 million nurses, with an additional projected 800 thousand needed across hospitals, ambulatory clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings by 2022.

There are several career options available in the nursing field. One of them is a Certified Nurse Assistant. Another option is to become a registered nurse or RN. Both CNA vs. RN have their specialties and advantages when it comes to career choices, but they also have several differences in terms of job outlooks and pay rates, among other things.

Just remember that whatever role a nurse has, they must provide care to the patients who need them. If you’re thinking of a nursing career, you should learn about the difference between these two healthcare professions. This article discusses the two most popular nursing programs in the healthcare industry and explores which career option may be better suited for your goals.

What is a CNA?

A certified nursing assistant, or CNA, is a medical professional who offers assistance to nurses and other medical staff. In a healthcare facility. CNAs help nurses who administer care to patients. They also assist with everyday tasks such as feeding, changing bed linens, and bathing the patient. In addition, CNAs may help maintain a clean and sanitary environment in the healthcare facility by cleaning rooms and equipment used for patient care.

CNA is one of the easiest ways to get into the medical field while working alongside skilled nurses and other health practitioners. CNAs receive training and education through an accredited program, which can be completed within weeks or months depending on which state you’re in and what college you’re attending. CNAs also provide emotional support for their patients and offer companionship when needed.

What is an RN?

An RN is a licensed nurse, provides direct patient care, and works in clinical settings such as hospitals and clinics. They assess the medical condition of their patients. They also develop nursing care plans to improve patient health conditions by checking vital signs. An RN is required to make quick decisions when it comes to patient treatment and their ongoing need for medication and other types of therapies. There are several specialized training programs that an RN can choose from based on their strengths, which include:

  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
  • Medical-Surgical Units
  • Pediatrics Units
  • Gerontology Units
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health Units    
  • Cardiovascular Units
  • Women’s Health Units
  • Emergency Departments
  • Critical Care Units (CCU) and many more.

RNs are the highest level of licensure for direct-care nurses in the United States. They also have some administrative responsibilities. It is common for RNs to work overnight shifts or during weekends, depending on their schedule. RNs are also responsible for patient care plans.

RNs are in demand by healthcare facilities worldwide, making this profession desirable among most individuals who want to pursue a career in the medical field. The best part about being an RN is you can also become a nurse practitioner.

CNA vs. RN: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to the difference between CNA and RN, here are some key differences between the two:

CNA vs. RN Education and Training

Both roles have different education requirements. Let’s see.

CNAs receive training through a postsecondary program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Program (CAAHEP). These degree programs are offered in vocational or technical schools, community colleges, and online institutions.

In comparison, RNs must complete BSN programs or Associate Degree Program in Nursing from a college or university accredited by the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

In addition to this, they must also graduate from a state-approved nursing school and pass their National Council Licensure Examination – Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN Exam) after graduating to become fully certified.

Work Environment

A CNA can work in most long-term healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. In addition to this, CNAs may also work in other medical offices that offer outpatient services.

In comparison, an RN can work in many different environments such as private practices, schools, and rehabilitation centers. They can also choose a career field that interests them based on their strengths and skills.

CNA vs. RN Salary Differences

The national average annual salary for nursing assistants in the United States is currently $35,277. However, this amount may vary depending on an individual’s particular location, education, and level of experience. Aside from their salaries, most nursing assistants also qualify for additional benefits from their employers, such as flexible schedules, paid sick leave, and access to referral programs.

For registered nurses, the current national average salary in the United States is $78,473 per year. This amount may also vary based on factors like the individual’s qualifications and location. Registered nurses also typically receive other benefits outside of their salaries, such as tuition reimbursement, 401(k), and loan forgiveness.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of people employed as nursing assistants is expected to increase by 8% from 2019 to 2029, which is a relatively rapid rate of growth. The BLS states that this rise might occur because the population is aging and more people require medical care. They also refer to an increase in the number of elderly patients who might need assistance with daily activities that they can receive through in-home care or in a nursing facility.

The BLS also provides job outlook information for registered nurses. They predict that the employment of registered nurses in the United States will grow by 7% from 2019 to 2029, which is a bit faster than average. When considering why this growth may occur, the BLS points to the aging population and increased chronic medical conditions, such as arthritis, diabetes, and dementia.

Scope of Practice

When it comes to their responsibilities, CNAs are primarily responsible for administering care to patients. That being said, they typically work under an RN, who is ultimately in charge of providing treatment and overseeing nursing assistants’ work performance.

In comparison, orders direct the activities of registered nurses. Because many different healthcare facilities may have different needs or procedures in place, RNs must understand their facility’s policies to follow the appropriate approach at all times.

Daily Nursing Duties

The workday of CNAs usually starts with a shift report, which takes place between 8 and 9 AM. This shift report typically includes a set of all patients that they’ll be responsible for during their shift and the different tasks that each patient requires. CNAs usually visit each patient’s room to discuss any changes in condition since the previous shift, such as having new symptoms or having a recent change in medications.

In comparison, RNs begin their workday from basic tasks like reviewing their patients’ charts from the last shift. They may also do rounds on certain patients during this time so they can gather important information about how they’re feeling and if their general condition has changed at all since the last shift.

Choosing the Right Path Into the Field of Nursing

Only you will have to decide what type of nurse you want to be and how you can best achieve your goals. To do this, you must take the time to research both nursing assistants and registered nurses thoroughly before deciding on which path into the field of nursing is right for you.

The good news is that you can always pivot within the field of nursing. This way, skills, and knowledge learned from one career can often translate into another area in some fashion or another. For example, if you work as a CNA but realize that the job demands are too strenuous for you to meet, you may choose to become an RN instead.

Ending Thoughts on CNA vs. RN:

Whatever program or degree you choose, it’s important to remember that taking the time to research and consider your options before jumping into a program is the best thing you can do for yourself. This way, you increase your chances of finding something that interests and excites you and helps pave a future filled with professional success!

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