Clinical nurse specialists are specially trained nurses who focus on developing skills that enable them to treat a specific patient population or a particular area of specialty. Some clinical nurse specialists might pursue specialization in treating patients suffering from diseases like cancer or Alzheimer’s; others might focus on working with a particular population like children or the elderly. A critical component of any healthcare management infrastructure, clinical nurse specialists play a very integral role in hospitals, doctors’ offices and medial centers. Despite the intensive training and many demands of the profession, clinical nurse specialists play a crucial role in modern healthcare and may be in demand.
What is a Clinical Nurse Specialist?
A clinical nurse specialist is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who is an expert at diagnosing and treating patients in a particular area. Clinical nurse specialists coordinate closely with other nurses and medical professionals to improve patient outcomes, diagnose and treat various illnesses and provide services to both treat patients and improve the delivery of healthcare services. Clinical nurse specialists focus their work on one of the following particular specializations in order to achieve the most desirable outcome overall for patients: setting, population, disease specialization, type of problem and type of care. They also must have a firm grasp of the three spheres of influence within the field: patient, personnel and system. No matter where a clinical nurse specialist chooses to focus their specialization, the ultimate goal is always to develop expertise that helps them improve the quality of nursing care and patient outcomes.
How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist
Clinical nurse specialists are typically expected to master the seven core competencies of the profession. These include direct clinical practice to diagnose and treat patients, coaching of other nurses, collaboration with other medical professionals, consultation to improve patient care, research into medical areas, professional leadership to innovate the patient care system and ethical decision making in order to provide the best possible care in an innovative way. The top qualities generally needed to enhance one’s career as a clinical nurse specialist include compassion, the desire to improve medical care for patients, empathy, innovation and excellent communications skills.1
Training and certification to become a clinical nurse specialist is an extensive process that requires years of medical education. Aspiring clinical nurse specialists must first earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing and become a registered nurse by passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses exam. After actively working as a registered nurse for approximately one to two years, candidates can apply to a clinical nurse specialist master’s degree program from an accredited institution.1
Upon graduating, the final step is to earn an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse license from a state licensing board. Specific areas of study for becoming a clinical nurse specialist include patient care, nursing practices, medical innovation and pharmacology1.
Clinical Nurse Specialist Salary Potential and Job Outlook
As of 2013, clinical nurse specialists earned a median annual wage of $31.84 per hour or $66,220 annually. The profession is also expected to grow faster than average between 2012 and 20222.