What is a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

Nursing is a vast part of the medical field with all the types of nurses, and individuals may inquire about a clinical nurse specialist. In today’s constantly changing dynamic healthcare field, highly skilled advanced practice nurses are in high demand to ensure the best quality healthcare options for a diversity of patients. Clinical nurse specialists, or CNSs, are considered advanced practice nurses and they are key components in the nursing field. These professionals are responsible for upper level job tasks and they must complete specific education and licensing requirements. This profession also features a positive job outlook and lucrative salary.

Clinical Nurse Specialist Job Tasks

A clinical nurse specialist strives to improve the outcomes for an array of patients, by applying theory and research to improve nursing systems. He or she serves as an advisor for other nurses and analytically applies reflections of direct patient care to research. A clinical nurse specialist interacts with individuals of all levels of a healthcare system to enhance practices that improve the outcomes for patients. He or she often organizes and directs education efforts for new nurses and current nurses. He or she also maintains advocacy roles, works with policy makers, directs the design of evidence-based practice studies, and assists with developing new evidence-based standards. Some clinical nurse specialists work directly with patients implementing and evaluating treatment plans. Others work in supervisory positions and administrative roles.

Education and Licensing for Clinical Nurse Specialists

The first step to becoming a clinical nurse specialist is completion of a bachelor’s degree in nursing and passing the national licensing examination to become a registered nurse. After gaining experience working as a registered nurse, most clinical nurse specialists complete a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing with a concentration related to their patient focus or subspecialty. Examples of degrees commonly held include Master of Science in Nursing- Clinical Nurse Specialist, Master of Science in Nursing- Community Health, RN to Master of Science in Nursing, and Doctor Philosophy in Nursing. The goal of these programs is to prepare registered nurses for leadership roles in the field. After completion of a graduate degree program in nursing, students have the ability to gain certification by examination from the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, in various specialties, such as neonatal, pediatrics, and adult/gerontology.

Job Outlook and Salary for Clinical Nurse Specialists

As stated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for advanced practice nurses, including clinical nurse specialists, is expected to rise 31 percent by the year 2024, which is deemed much faster than the average for all professions. Growth will result from the increased need for more sophisticated healthcare services to meet the needs of a wide range of patients. As stated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a clinical nurse specialist earns an estimated average of $84,000 per year, with a range of about $65,000 to more than $110,000. Actual annual salaries for clinical nurse specialists vary depending on location, employer, qualifications, specialty, and experience.

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Working as an advanced practice nurse is ideal for experienced registered nurses seeking to pursue leadership roles. Choosing to work as a clinical nurse specialist is an excellent choice for those seeking to make a difference from an upper level stand point to improve the overall healthcare delivery of an array of patient populations.