If you’re a caregiver, you’re most likely empathetic, helpful, and compassionate. These traits will make you a successful nurse who makes a difference in every patient’s life. Being a caregiver while becoming a nurse isn’t the easiest process, but you already have a lot of the skills you need in nursing. 

On the flip side, if you’re in nursing school, you might consider gaining practical experience as a caregiver while earning your degree. Caregiving will give you much of the experience you need to become an amazing nurse.

Differences Between a Caregiver and a Nurse

Caregivers and nurses are similar, but there are also big differences between the two roles. As you think about shifting from a caregiver to a nurse, here’s what you’ll need to focus on.

Training and Education

While a caregiver may need to complete a shorter certification course, becoming a nurse typically requires investing a year or more in education and more in-depth experience through clinicals. Typically, you’ll need at least a two-year associate’s degree in nursing. Frequently, nurses will pursue a four-year bachelor’s degree. 

Besides a degree, you can also do an accelerated nursing program. Typically, this option is only available if you have background nursing experience or knowledge or a degree in another subject.

After completing your educational requirements, you’ll need to pass the NCLEX-PN exam for LPNs or the NCLEX-RN exam for RNs through The National Council of State Boards of Nursing. 

Job Duties

Caregivers and nurses also differ in their day-to-day job responsibilities. As a caregiver, you’ll help people with daily tasks, such as:

  • Dressing
  • Bathing 
  • Light housekeeping
  • Running errands
  • Taking vitals

As a nurse, you may provide skilled nursing treatments, such as:

  • Taking vitals
  • Providing wound care
  • Administering IVs and injections
  • Managing chronic or acute medical conditions and medication management
  • Preparing patients for exams or treatments
  • Conducting physical exams
  • Administering treatments and monitoring patients for any side effects
  • Communicating with doctors and implementing orders


Nursing requires formal education. Because nurses have more medical knowledge, they get paid more. While caregivers can expect to make between $9 and $20 an hour, nurses may earn $50,000 to $85,000 or more annually. 


While caregivers have many opportunities, nurses also have a wide range of options. There is a national staffing shortage for caregivers and nurses, meaning both positions are in extremely high demand. Caregivers may be able to get started in their careers and begin making an impact more quickly than nurses. But, nurses can move up more easily than caregivers to higher-paying roles, including:

  • Nurse practitioner 
  • Nurse midwife
  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Nursing instructors and teachers

Nurses have many great opportunities, and caregivers have many transferable skills to help them thrive as nurses.

Transferable Caregiver Experience

Caregivers have vital skills that transfer to nursing. Being a caregiver is a wonderful way to train to become a nurse. It’s also a method of testing the profession to see if you like the job duties. 

Caregiver skills that help you in nursing include:

  • Patient Care. Caregivers are already excellent at interacting with and caring for patients, which is a huge part of a nurse’s regular job. You’ll have a leg up on your nursing school classmates with your fantastic bedside manner.
  • Problem Solving. As a caregiver, you face issues throughout the day, requiring your brain to devise solutions quickly. Problem-solving skills will help you handle many obstacles as a nurse. 
  • Managing Communication. As a caregiver, you must communicate with your clients, their families, and even their nurses. Nurses must also communicate well, especially with patients and their families.
  • Collaborating with Service Providers. Just as caregivers often have to communicate with nurses to understand care plans, the same is true for nurses who collaborate with physician assistants, doctors, or surgeons.

Working as a caregiver, you’ll gain daily experience that will help you excel in nursing. You’ll be more comfortable working with patients and communicating with others. Moving forward in your career, you’ll be able to leverage your caregiving experience as you earn your nursing degree.

Being a Caregiver While Becoming a Nurse

If you think being a caregiver is a great option for you while you earn your nursing degree, here are some more tips to help you throughout the process.

Evaluate Your Experience

Emphasize your strong resume to help you earn a position as a caregiver. Often, you’ve probably had roles or education that could help you stand out. For example, if you worked as a care provider to children, that can often lead to you landing a role as a caregiver. 

Don’t be afraid to include any personal experience too. Did you have a grandparent you took care of? That experience is just as valuable to a caregiving role, even if you weren’t paid for it.

Create Educational Goals

As you begin your career, set educational goals to help you succeed. Consider what you want to achieve in nursing school and how fast you want to achieve it. Is it becoming more confident speaking up around patients? Or maybe it’s learning how to navigate clinical settings with ease? Whatever it is, write it down. Then, break down your goals into actionable steps you can take each day — both in nursing school and as a caregiver.

Finally, think about your goals after graduation. Many nurses go on to pursue advanced degrees and certifications. Other professionals may specialize in specific areas, such as geriatrics or pediatrics.

Pursue Caregiver Specializations

If you already know you want to pursue specializations within the field of nursing, why not start now as a caregiver? For example, if you know you want to be a manager within nursing, start by becoming a trainer or manager within your caregiver company. This role will give you practical experience you can take forward in your career. 

Select a Nursing Program 

There are several different paths to becoming a nurse: 

  • Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA)
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
  • Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) 
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) 

Each program has its own requirements and benefits, but they’re all big commitments. Research each of your options to pick the best nursing program for you. 

Work for a Growth-Oriented Agency

Finally, working for an agency that wants you to grow and thrive is essential. Working for a caregiver agency that supports your growth, rather than trying to hinder it, can be all the difference in having a pleasant experience versus facing challenges. Some home care agencies may even provide tuition assistance or pay for growth-based training.

At Providence Home Health, we support our caregivers as they strive for excellence and become nurses. Our goal is to help you achieve the work/life balance you desire, so you can get your working hours in while also having enough time to focus on your nursing education. We want to help you grow with purpose.
Start your career in caregiving today.

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