Clinical Nurse Specialist with patients

How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist

How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist—Job Description and Salaries

What does a clinical nurse specialist do? A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) provides expert nursing services in the health care environment. These medical professionals must undergo extensive training before taking on the responsibilities of clinical nursing. Most clinical nurse specialists work as registered nurses before pursuing a master’s degree or doctorate in this advanced specialty. Certification and licensure are generally required to obtain a position as a clinical nurse in today’s competitive job market.

WClinical Nurse Specialist consulting with physicianhat Does a Clinical Nurse Specialist Do?

Clinical nurse specialists perform their duties in a wide range of medical environments, including private practices, home health care, clinics and hospitals. These highly trained nurses typically pursue   specializations in one of three primary areas:

  •      Patient care
  •      Management of nursing teams
  •      Administration in larger health care organizations

Many clinical nurse specialists supervise the work performed by other nurses in hospitals and clinics to ensure the best possible results for their patients. Other duties included in the clinical nurse job description may include:

  • Performing diagnostic procedures to determine the cause of patient symptoms
  • Creating treatment plans and care regimens
  • Recording patient medical histories
  • Providing information to patients and their families regarding health conditions and treatments and encouraging healthier behaviors
  • Conducting research in the medical field
  • Administering medications and treatment procedures for patients in clinical and hospital environments
  • Working collaboratively with other health care professionals to provide excellent care for patients and support for their families

Clinical nurse specialists who work in the research field may also be required to record all relevant findings to ensure the greatest degree of accuracy for these essential studies. Additionally, clinical nurses who have a master’s degree or doctorate in their field can apply for and obtain the ability to prescribe medications for their patients in most states.

Clinical Nurse Specialist Salaries

Figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2015 indicate that the median for clinical nurse specialist salaries was approximately $104,740 per year. The BLS projects that jobs in this field will increase by 31 percent over the 10-year period between 2014 and 2024, making this a lucrative, high-demand career in the medical job market.

How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist

From start to finish, the education required to become a clinical nurse specialist generally takes from five to 10 years. Some of this time may be spent working as a registered nurse or acquiring practical experience in this field. Employers typically require at least a master’s degree and may prefer job candidates with a doctorate in clinical nursing. Certifications and licensures may also be required to obtain positions of responsibility in the modern health care environment.

Steps to Becoming a Clinical Nurse Specialist

Depending on the educational path you choose, a bachelor’s degree in nursing is usually the first step toward a career as a clinical nurse specialist. Most students obtain licensure as a registered nurse at this point and may pursue employment opportunities while continuing their education toward a master’s or doctoral degree in the nursing field. 

Step 1: Complete Your Nursing Degree

A bachelor’s degree is the first necessary step toward a career as a clinical nurse specialist. A bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree will typically qualify you for licensure as a registered nurse. Topics covered in these degree programs may include the following:

  • Leadership in the health care environmentClinical Nurse Specialist with pregnant woman
  • Statistics and recordkeeping
  • Bioethics
  • Research and scientific methods
  • Physical assessment and diagnosis
  • Issues in public health management
  • Practical experience in the nursing environment

Nurses who have already completed an associate degree and have been licensed as a registered nurse may be able to complete their bachelor’s degree in less than three years. Additionally, online-only programs may also be available for those with previous experience in the field of nursing.

Step 2: Obtain Your Clinical Nurse Specialist License

For nurses who have not yet achieved licensure with their state boards, this is the next step in the process of becoming a clinical nurse specialist. Licensing requirements may vary from state to state.

Step 3: Earn Your Master of Science in Nursing Degree

Finding and enrolling in an accredited Master of Science in Nursing program will provide the educational background needed for success. The curriculum will usually include coursework on the following topics:

  • Ethics and philosophical aspects of nursing
  • Statistics and reasoning
  • Clinical pharmacology
  • Advanced health assessment
  • Disease prevention and health care
  • Program development and administration
  • Practical applications in real-world settings

Some programs may require one year or more of previous experience to gain entry to these advanced nursing curricula.

Step 4: Earn Your CNS Certification(s)

American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers examination-based certification programs for clinical nurse specialists. These certifications are available in a wide range of subspecialties that include adult health care, gerontology, pediatrics, mental health, and community-based health care programs. Earning certification from the ANCC can often provide added opportunities for employment in the health care field.

Nurses who achieve certification in one of these specialty fields can find jobs in public health clinics, hospitals, private practices and other health care facilities. This can help aspiring clinical nursing specialists to achieve your goals while earning a good living in the medical field.

Earn Your Clinical Nurse Specialist Degree at GMercyU

Finding a practical pathway to success in the clinical nursing specialty can be challenging. By following these simple steps and selecting an accredited Clinical Nurse Specialist degree program, you can become a clinical nurse specialist and enjoy the added responsibility and remuneration possible in this advanced nursing practice field. Contact Gwynedd Mercy University today to get started.