What is a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

What is a clinical nurse specialist? A certified clinical nurse specialist is an expert clinician, with specialized Nursing education and a comprehensive health care background. The certified clinical nurse specialist is a role that is licensed, standardized, and fully regulated as one of the nursing occupations that is in high demand. The CNS is a role that’s dedicated to improving patient outcomes and advocating for and leading high-quality care initiatives.

What does a clinical nurse specialist do?

What does a clinical nurse specialist do? The easy answer would be to say that the CNS can do “anything,” since their scope of responsibilities can be so varied. The specifics of the occupation, though, involves care specializations in geriatrics, pediatrics, and/or women’s health across various health-care settings, including emergency care and other medical offices. The level of specialization by a clinical nurse specialist can involve disease or medical subspecialties like oncology or diabetes. The scope of the occupation can focus on a type of problem wound assessment, pain management, or stress mitigation.

It’s important to understand the answer to the question: “What does a clinical nurse specialist do?” With such a range of possibilities, clinical nurse specialists to provide the level of diagnostic and treatment care that’s important for the health and ongoing management needs of patients. They are optimally placed to advocate for patients, with a best-practices approach based on research.

Education Requirements

For those wondering how to become a certified clinical nurse specialist, it’s important to remember that the clinical nurse specialist is just an extension of standard Nursing. Clinical nurse specialist education involves a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree from an accredited higher-education institution, as well as a specialization focus. It’s important to understand the basics of how to become a clinical nurse specialist.

What is Required for a Clinical Nurse Specialist Education?

Additional credentials and certifications may be required for a certified clinical nurse specialist education, depending on the type of specialization and area of focus. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers certifications to support specialties in gerontology, pediatrics, mental health, and adult health. Those certifications require the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, current Registered Nurse licensure, and graduate coursework in the pharmacology, health and physical assessment, and pathophysiology. The certification requires a minimum of 500 clinic hours in the CNS role, under supervision. Depending on the area of specialization (specifically pediatric, gerontology, and mental health), the certified clinical nurse specialist must take an exam to verify competencies.

How Does the Clinical Nurse Specialist Education and Certification Vary by State?

The certified clinical nurse specialist education requirements for education, background, and practice authority can vary somewhat based on state laws and regulations. The best education programs offer coursework that will prepare candidates for the rapidly changing role of the CNS in clinical care environments. The CNS must understand and be held accountable for patient care outcomes across integrated care service solutions. The many roles of clinical nurse specialists involve leadership, advocacy, and strategic planning, with a focus on research/evidentiary based health care, with high-quality standards.

Clinical Specialist Nurse Salary

How much do CNS make? The clinical specialist nurse salary median pay is $71,730 (~$34/hour), with a job outlook that’s growing faster than expected at 12%. Since the role of clinical nurse specialist is a type of Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), the specialization can further enhance the job outlook, particularly in areas of geriatrics. Statistically the baby-boom population is living longer and needing greater levels of healthcare support. With the knowledge of how essential the CNS is to healthcare, it’s important to ask the question again: “How much do CNS make?”

The certified clinical specialist nurse salary is often linked with a demanding work schedule, with some specializations involving 24-hour care. That can lead to working nights, weekends, and holidays. The CNS career offers the framework for advancing in a nursing specialization, while becoming real leaders and mentors in the healthcare industry. The clinical nurse specialist takes on demanding roles that are ideally positioned to influence health policy and procedure. That’s why the certified clinical specialist nurse salary is important.

Most important of all, the CNS is a primary advocate for patients in challenging and critical-care environments where their compassionate care, dedicated expertise, wealth of research-based knowledge is desperately needed. That value is reflected in the certified clinical specialist nurse salary.

While every healthcare role is important, the clinical nurse specialist’s role stands apart with the level of responsibility and expertise that makes the person able to reflect upon and make recommendations regarding the standards of care, policies and procedure, and patient advocacy. That’s why most nurses who pursue this area of Advanced Nursing say that they want to make a difference. With the CNS career trajectory, nurses have the background, skills, and expertise that are the most critical for their areas of specialization. It’s one of the career focuses that allow a candidate to see, experience, and learn from real-world patient care scenarios across a range of healthcare environments.

Related Rankings:

25 Best Paying Nursing Fields for the Future

The 25 Best Nursing Jobs

25 Unusual Nursing Certifications

50 Best Nursing Careers Based on Salary and Demand