Clinical Nurse Specialist

What Does a Clinical Nurse Specialist Do?

A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is an advanced practice nurse with an graduate or doctorate level education. They are traditionally found in acute care settings, but are working more and more today in non acute care environments. Clinical nurse specialists are experts at diagnosing and treating illnesses and they are responsible for providing evidence based treatments and interventions. They also work with other nurses and specialists to provide clinical expertise in an effort to bring about practical improvements to the overall health system. They focus their work on what they call their “three spheres of influence”, which are patient/family, nursing personnel, and system/network organization. Clinical nurse specialists can focus their practice in a specific area based on conditions or illnesses, like diabetes or cardiovascular diseases, or based on working environments, like emergency rooms or urgent care clinics, or even based on procedures, like surgery. The average five daily duties of a CNS include clinical practice, teaching, research, consulting and management.

How Can I Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

A clinical nurse specialist is a highly educated and trained position. They must obtain a master’s or doctor’s level degree in nursing with emphasis on becoming a clinical nurse specialist. Following completion of the degree, nurses are then required to successfully pass the national nurses licensing exam. After this, they are eligible to sit for the CNS certification exam, which is sponsored by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). This exam can provide certification for clinical nurse specialists in adult health, adult psychiatric and mental health, child/adolescent psychology and mental health, CNS Core, diabetes management, gerontological, home health, public/community health, and pediatrics. These exams are computer based and contain a set number of multiple choice questions, usually 175. While the majority of exam questions will be directly related to the specialty you test in, all exams cover education, research, advanced practice nursing and the sciences. For information about test, visit the ANCC website.

What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

The average annual salary for clinical nurse specialists is around $80,000, but this number can range from $75,000 – $100,000 per year based on geographic location, hiring facility, education and training level. The employment outlook for clinical nurse specialists is very positive. The United States is currently facing a nursing shortage which is only expected to worsen in the coming years. Advanced practice nurses, like clinical nurse specialists, are in especially high demand because they can provide primary and specialized care for patients without costing a medical facility as much as employing a physician might. This high demand for skilled medical personnel means higher salaries, better benefits packages, more flexible work environments and schedules and other perks doled out to entice nurses. Their wide range of expertise also allows them to work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, home care systems, homes, clinics, offices, private businesses, private practices and schools.