How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist

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Advanced practice nursing is an essential part of the medical field that involves advanced skills and expertise. Clinical nurse specialists are registered nurses that have completed advanced education to provide more specialized patient care and expert consultations.


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What does a clinical nurse specialist do?

Clinical nurse specialists are advanced practice nurses that focus on a specific area of nursing. They are responsible for five general tasks including clinical practice, research, teaching, management, and consulting. They often serve as primary care providers and diagnose and treat patients. They also provide education on disease prevention and management to patients and families. Some clinical nurse specialists provide education to nursing staff and other healthcare workers. Many clinical nurse specialists focus on specific patient populations or certain medical conditions. They are also typically involved in conducting research and improving healthcare systems.

What kind of training does a clinical nurse specialist need?

Clinical nurse specialists must be registered nurses and have completed at least a master degree in nursing. Some employers prefer applicants with a doctorate degree in nursing. Most clinical nurse specialists complete clinical nursing programs and they typically complete courses in pharmacology, advanced practice nursing theory, advanced health assessment, resource development and financial management, diagnostic reasoning, and evidence-based practice. Clinical nurse specialists concentrate on a certain area such as pediatrics, intensive care, surgery, psychiatry, community health, and family care. All registered nurses must be licensed by passing the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN). Clinical nurse specialists must also become certified from the American Nurses Credentialing Center or other certification body. Clinical nurse specialists must complete regular continuing education and additional training to keep up to date on their skills and maintain their licenses and certifications.

What are the prospects for a career as a clinical nurse specialist?

Employment of all registered nurses is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 23% from 2006 to 2016 (1).

Job prospects should be excellent, especially for clinical nurse specialists with extensive experience. Numerous job openings will stem from the need to replace clinical nurse specialists that retire, transfer, or leave the profession for other reasons.

How much do clinical nurse specialist make?

As of December 2009, the middle 50% of clinical nurse specialists earn annual salaries between $75,202 and $88,938. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $95,544 (2).

A career as a clinical nurse specialist is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in advanced practice nursing. Clinical nurse specialists must have a solid understanding of advanced practices in the nursing field and their application to a variety of situations. They must have good leadership and managerial skills and be able to make effective decisions. Patience, confidence, critical thinking, and good problem solving are necessary characteristics. Clinical nurse specialists must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and ability to interact with a variety of patients and other healthcare professionals.

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