Clinical nurse specialists are advanced practice nurses who provide specialist care in different medical fields. They differ from nursing practitioners in that their care is directed to a specific category or population of patients. Nursing practitioners on the other hand, provide generalized care and routine nursing procedures to the different categories of patients. A clinical nursing specialist only cares for patients in his or her field of specialization.
Clinical nursing specialties are based on any of five different aspects: health setting such as emergency care, population such as children or women, disease e.g. diabetes, type of care such as rehabilitation or psychiatric and type of problem e.g. pain, wounds or long term care. Thus, a cardiology nursing specialist will only handle patients with heart problems while a pediatric clinical nursing specialist only handles children.
Clinical Nursing Specialist Job Responsibilities
Clinical nursing specialists are greatly involved in patient care. They play a very important role in case management and work closely with medical staff to evaluate solutions for patients. They organize and coordinate the different medical services and resources required in the practice, and are for the large part case managers.
Due to their advanced training, they can perform most clinical procedures initially performed by doctors. They are also involved in teaching and educating both patients and the rest of the nursing staff. They educate patients and their families on the best way to manage their conditions and educate the nursing staff on new clinical procedures.
Clinical nursing specialists are involved in research and must have the ability to competently research patients’ problems and come up with solutions.
They are seen as experts in their area of study and for this, offer consultation services to nurses and other medical staff working they are working with.
Clinical Nurse Specialist Training and Education Requirements
Clinical nursing specialists are required to have a master’s degree, majoring in clinical nurse specialist. The program takes between 2 and 3 years. In addition, they must obtain a practicing license for the state in which they intend to practice. In order to be admitted to graduate school, applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing, even though some programs will accept people who have an undergraduate in a field other than nursing.
They are also required to undertake continuous training throughout their nursing practice. The current nursing specialist regulations require practicing clinical nursing specialists to renew their credentials every five years, time during which they should have earned additional professional development units. They are required to show proof of continual education before their license can be renewed.
The clinical nurse specialist course covers a wide range of disciplines including clinical practice, pharmacology, nutrition, biology, histology and financial management. Specific areas covered under the above are pathophysiology, advanced patient assessment, advanced nursing theory, family nursing, educating through nursing, evidence-based nursing, statistics in clinical practice, healthcare law, ethics in nursing, advanced ethics and financial management in healthcare.
Curricula vary depending on specialty but the above are baseline courses that are offered across the board.
Clinical Nursing Specialist Certification
Certification for clinical nurse specialists is not mandatory, as the license is enough for one to start their practice. However should one desire to get certified, they may do so through a national or regional body. The American Nurses Credentialing Center has certification programs for most clinical nursing specialists. For this, one needs to sit a specialty exam and pass. This certification program validates the nurse’s knowledge, skills and abilities in the specified field.
Should one choose not to get certified, they can still obtain a license, provided they show proof of having completed a master’s program in clinical nursing specialist.
Clinical Nursing Specialist Salary and Wages
The clinical nursing specialist field is one of the most rewarding both in and outside of the medical industry. Prospects for specialist nurses are bright, as demand for them increases gradually over the years. While clinical nursing specialists in rural and government institutions earn slightly less than their counterparts in private and urban areas, the pay is nonetheless attractive. An August 2011poll showed that clinical nurse specialist salaries countrywide are 26% higher than those of all other jobs. On average, a clinical nurse specialist just starting can earn between $54,000 and $55,000 a year. Clinical nursing specialists are able to earn this amount within their first five years of practice. The longer one remains in practice, the higher their salary becomes. Salaries and wages also vary across the specialties, with psychiatric clinical nurse specialists earning as high as $158,000 a year.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Clinical Nursing Specialist Professional Associations
The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) is geared towards enhancing the contribution of CNSs and advancing their practice.
The American Nurses Association is the largest professional body for nurses in the US, under which Clinical Nurse Specialists fall.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing is another body that supports clinical nurse specialists.