QuickER Ways to Get into the Nursing Field!
June 24, 2022
By Talitha Basinski, MSN-Ed, RN
There are plenty of jobs out there that are perfect for nursing students, or those who are trying to decide if the medical field is the right fit for them.
These jobs allow you to get a taste of what healthcare is like. They generally pay well and look great on the resume of a new grad.
CNAs help care for patients in various settings, from nursing facilities to hospitals to the patient’s own home. CNAs can take vital signs, provide hygiene services, and administer first aid. CNAs are invaluable members of any healthcare team. A job in this role can prepare you to care for patients much more efficiently. To become a CNA, you will need to take a CNA course which is typically 3 months long and involves a lecture component and clinical practicum. In some states, nursing students can apply for their CNA license after their first semester of nursing school.
This role is typically found in doctor offices. It can consist of front-office (think registration and billing) or back-office work. The type of work will depend on what kind of certification you get in medical assisting. Medical assistants can help with wound care, certain injections such as vaccines, and vital signs. A benefit to this job is the exposure to medical terminology and the number of skills you are trained to do. Medical assistants typically work Monday through Friday and have holidays off.
Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)
LVNs complete a 1-year program that prepares them to work in the medical field. LVNs can administer medications, start IVs (if certified), and help lighten the RN’s workload. They are often found working in nursing facilities, urgent cares, and home health facilities. In most states, LVNs can apply to an RN program during the second or third semester. The benefit here is that the LVN can get nursing experience before starting a registered nurse program.
Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
There are different kinds of EMTs, based on the amount of training they have done. EMT-Basic (EMT-B) can provide first aid and transport patients in an ambulance. They may work with a fire department, responding to 911 calls. Or they can work for a private ambulance company that transports patients from nursing homes to hospitals or doctors’ offices. The benefits to this job are that they often work 12 or 24-hour shifts and get plenty of experience with patient care. EMTs also work in the emergency room as “techs.” They do EKGs, wound care, transport patients, and clean rooms. ER techs are the ER’s valuable asset, and we definitely notice when the techs are short-staffed
EMT-Paramedics (EMT-P), usually just known as paramedic or medic, provide a higher level of emergency services than an EMT-B. Paramedics start IVs, administer medication, intubate, stabilize, and resuscitate patients. Becoming a paramedic is no easy feat, requiring about a year of lecture, clinical, and internship. However, in my experience, paramedics who decide to go to nursing school find the theory and skills portions to be much easier than their classmates. Care plans and bedpans tend to be a bit more of a struggle, though.
Many hospitals employ sitters to help with their confused or psychiatric patients. The official titles may be “patient observer” or “patient care assistant,” but everyone refers to this job position as “sitter.” That’s because the job involves sitting with the patients to keep them safe. Often elderly patients can become confused while ill, pulling out their IV or getting out of bed when they aren’t steady on their feet. Having a sitter is a way to make sure the patient doesn’t become injured. Some psychiatric patients will need sitters if they are at risk of leaving the hospital. In these situations, the sitter may just observe and redirect the patient. Other times the sitter may engage in conversation with the patient to keep them calm. A job as a sitter is a great way to get a foot in the door at a hospital, allowing you to network with nursing and management. There is no formal training needed for this position, which makes it great for nursing students.
Phlebotomists take blood from patients and deliver it to the lab. They work closely with the nurses in hospitals to make sure that the right specimens are taken at the right time. Those who have taken a phlebotomy course can work in hospitals, labs, or even home health. While starting an IV is quite different from drawing blood, learning phlebotomy will still help you become better at IVs once you are a nurse. Plus, learning how to interact with patients during painful procedures is a great skill to learn.
Patient Service Representative
While this job is less medical in nature than other jobs, it does help you get a foot in the door at hospitals. Patient service representatives are the medical assistants of hospitals. They register patients and verify insurances, among other things. Again, not a hands-on medical job, but still in the healthcare field, which allows for networking. I did this job for 9 years before becoming a nurse. Not only did it help me get the job I now have, but I also have a better understanding of the insurance side of healthcare. This allows me to direct my patients to appropriate follow-up locations, which my fellow RNs typically cannot do.
Transporters are the backbone of the hospital. They take patients from their rooms to whatever tests are ordered, such as x-rays and ultrasounds. They also transport patients between floors. This is a job where you do a lot of lifting, pulling, and walking. I helped out in transport one night, and after 4 hours, I was exhausted and had taken almost 8,000 steps! It is a physical job, but it is a great way to get hired into a hospital job without experience. Often hospitals will hire from within, so having a job like this will make it easier to move into other positions, such as CNA or sitter, once you have been hired.
Telemetry technician Tele techs are trained in how to read and interpret electrocardiograms, or EKGs/ECGs. The word “telemetry” means to monitor from a distance. Tele techs usually work in hospitals and are responsible for monitoring the cardiac rhythms of admitted patients at a central monitoring station. If a patient develops an arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm, the tele tech will notify the RN or physician. If you are interested in working with cardiac patients, such as in the intensive care unit (ICU) or a telemetry floor, this is a great way to become an expert in cardiac rhythms!