Clinical Nurse Specialist - How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist

Clinical Nurse Specialist

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Clinical Nurse Specialist Job Description

 

Clinical nurse specialists are registered nurses who have earned a master’s or doctoral degree in advanced practice nursing and have been certified within a specific domain of patients or nursing. They work with a nursing staff and provide indirect care through management and prioritization to improve the quality of care and reach the best outcomes.

Specializations fall into three primary categories:

  • Patient Care & Families

  • Nursing Management

  • Health Care Administration

Within these three domains, clinical nurse specialists can further focus on any of the following:

  • Particular populations, such as women’s health, pediatrics or geriatrics

  • Specific settings, such as emergency room, adult critical care or neonatal critical care

  • Medical subspecialties focusing on one diseases, such as diabetes or oncology

  • Specific types of care, such as geriatrics or rehabilitation

  • Particular types of health problem, such as pain management, wound care or stress

Additionally, some clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) work at the organizational level to make broad improvements to the system as a whole.

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Responsibilities

 

Conventional nursing responsibilities focus on helping patients recuperate from an illness or injury, preventing a disease from spreading, and educating patients on their needs.

A clinical nurse specialist’s practice includes more in-depth responsibilities, such as:

  • Diagnosing and treating specific diseases

  • Treating injuries and/or disabilities within a chosen area of expertise

  • Providing direct patient care

  • Providing expert consultations for nursing staff

  • Actively participating in programs to improve health care delivery systems

Overall, the responsibilities of specialists vary wildly depending on the area in which they choose. Those that pursue a PhD program will likely focus on research while others will manage nursing a teams and implement solutions to systemic health care problems.

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Skills

 

Clinical nurse specialists should be compassionate and have excellent communication skills as they will be working with individuals from all walks of life. Communication, both orally and written, is vital to managing a team and reaching the correct solutions to problems that arise as well.

Technical skills and proficiency with the tools of the trade are needed for cohesive workflow, while a sense of accountability and a commitment to high standards of care are necessary to guarantee the best outcomes for patients.

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Working Conditions

 

Clinical nurse specialists in the United States are practicing in settings and areas of expertise across health care delivery systems and networks. Clinical nursing specialists work in highly demanding environments, both physically and emotionally.

They most commonly practice in:

  • Hospitals

  • Clinics

  • Private practices

  • Schools

  • Nursing homes

  • Prisons

  • Corporations

Clinical nursing specialists are likely to be expected to work odd hours and long shifts, depending on the state of the organization they work for. Many provide round-the-clock patient care and work nights, weekends, and holidays.

 


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How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist:

 

1. Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (4 Years)

 

In order to become a clinical nurse specialist, candidates must first earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing by undertaking a 4-year university program to prepare them for higher levels of education.

 

The preparation timeline below provides an example curriculum for undergraduate nursing students:

 

Grade Level

Example Courses

Freshman Year

 

  • General Chemistry I & Lab

  • Human Anatomy & Physiology I & Lab

  • Human Anatomy & Physiology II & Lab

  • Psychology I

  • Microbiology I & Lab

  • English 101

  • Introduction to Professional Nursing

  • Nursing Informatics

  • Humanities Requirement

Sophomore Year

  • Pathophysiologic Foundations of Nursing care

  • Foundations of Nursing Practice I

  • Foundations of Nursing Practice II

  • Pharmacology and Therapeutics

  • Statistics for Evidence-Based Practice

  • Nursing Management of Adults with Acute/Chronic Illness

  • Introduction to Critical Appraisal & Evidence-Based Practice

  • Nutrition for Clinical Practice

  • Humanities Requirement

Junior Year

 

  • Nursing Care of Mothers, Newborns, and Families & Clinical

  • Nursing Care of Children & Clinical

  • Ethics in Nursing and Health

  • Nursing Care of Clients with Mental Health Problems & Clinical

  • Advanced Nursing Management of Adults with Acute/Complex Health Problems & Clinical

  • Nursing Care of Older Adults & Clinical

Senior Year

  • Community Health Nursing & Clinical

  • Advanced Clinical Problem Solving & Clinical

  • Transition into Professional Nursing Practice & Clinical

  • Introduction to Genetics & Molecular Therapeutics

  • Athletic Training Clinical III & IV

  • Remaining Electives

 

2. Take the Graduate Requisite Exam (GRE)

 

Most graduate programs revolving around forensic science require the Graduate Requisite Exam (GRE) for admittance. It's a 3 hour and 45 minute, standardized, multiple choice exam that covers analytical writing, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning.

 

The GRE is broken down into six primary sections:

 

1 Analytical Writing Section

  • 2 writing assignments

  • 60 minutes

  • Tests student's abilities to assess arguments and communicate ideas

2 Quantitative Reasoning Sections

  • ~20 multiple-choice questions

  • 35 minutes per section

  • Tests student's abilities to solve mathematical problems and interpret data

2 Verbal Reasoning Sections

  • ~20 questions per section

  • 30 minutes per section

  • Tests the ability to understand and analyze written material

1 Unscored Section

  • A duplicate of one of the above sections

 

You can find study materials, GRE registration, and your test scores on the GRE website.

 

 3. Earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a Clinical Nursing Specialty

 

To become a clinical nursing specialist, aspiring nurses must earn a Master of Science in Nursing, specializing in Clinical Nursing. These programs often only take an additional 2 years to complete and are well worth the additional work as they open more opportunities than a bachelor's degree alone can.

 

The preparation timeline below shows an example curriculum:

 

Year

Example Courses

First Year

 

  • Philosophical, Theoretical, and Ethical Basis for Nursing

  • Applications of Research to Practice

  • Healthcare for Advanced Practice Nursing

  • Adult & Geriatric Variation

  • Health Promotion & Disease Prevention

Second Year

  • Practice Research Applications

  • Statistical Literacy in Nursing Research

  • Advanced Health Assessment & Measurement

  • Human & Family Development

  • Program Development & Evaluation in Healthcare

 

3. Take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)

 

The NCLEX has a varying number of questions, from 75 to a possible 265, that can be answered. There will be 15 experimental questions among the total, regardless of how many were answered. The maximum allotted time for the exam is 6 hours and no mandatory breaks are required. Testers can, however, take optional breaks after 2.5 and 3.5 hours of the exam.

The NCLEX is broken down into four primary categories under "Meeting Client Need" and eight subcategories under those:

 

"Meeting Client Needs" Categories

Subcategories

Safe and Effective Care Environments

  • Management of Care

  • Safety and Infection Control

Health Promotion and Safety

  • Health Promotion and Safety

Psychosocial Integrity

 

  • Psychosocial Integrity

Physiological Integrity

  • Basic Care and Comfort

  • Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies

  • Reduction of Risk Potential

  • Physiological Adaption

 

For more information on the NCLEX, visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

 

Related: Top 10 Best NCLEX-RN Review Books

 

4. Earn the Required Certified Nurse Specialist (CNS) Certification

 

Certified nursing specialists must pass a certification exam to being employment. Each specialty has its own exam that must be completed and maintained throughout the years.

For more information about certification exams, go to the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

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Salary Outlook

Title Company Location Posted
12.05.2016
Clinical Nurse Specialist Maternal Child Health must have clinical expertise in Labor and Delivery; Mother/Baby experience preferred and 3-5 years in staff education or related field. NRP and BLS certification required. Masters degree required....
12.05.2016
Position will support Dialysis and Vascular Surgery Support Carilion's hallmarks of service excellence and quality for all job responsibilities. Provides direct/indirect specialized, comprehensive care, emphasizing health promotion, disease...
12.05.2016
The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) is accountable for continuous improvement of patient outcomes and nursing care. The CNS is responsible and accountable for diagnosis and treatment of health/illness states, disease management, health promotion,...
12.05.2016
Come join Virginia Hospital Center's Staff Development Team! Our Diabetes Program has received the Gold Seal of Approval from the Joint Commission for advanced certification in Inpatient Diabetes. The Clinical Nurse Specialist is responsible...
12.05.2016
The Midtown Nurse Practitioner/Clinical Nurse Specialist demonstrates clinical expertise in assessment, diagnostic reasoning, and the therapeutic management of acutely and chronically ill individuals. The NP/CNS will use research and theoretical...
12.06.2016
Department: Nursing Clinical Practice & EducationA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) works collaboratively to improve the quality of patient care and promote desired patient outcomes in a designated...
12.06.2016
Department: DONA Life-Changing CareerPosition Summary: Clinical Nurse Specialist: Connected CareResponsibilities: The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) works collaboratively to improve the quality of patient care and promote desired patient...
12.06.2016
Department: NursingA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) works collaboratively to improve the quality of patient care and promote desired patient outcomes in a designated pediatric population/specialty...
12.06.2016
Department: NursingA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) works collaboratively to improve the quality of patient care and promote desired patient outcomes in a designated population/specialty practice. The...
12.06.2016
Department: DONA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) works collaboratively to improve the quality of patient care and promote desired patient outcomes in the pediatric population/specialty practice. This...
12.06.2016
Department: NursingA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) works collaboratively to improve the quality of patient care and promote desired patient outcomes in the ambulatory population/specialty practice. This...
12.06.2016
Department: Nursing AdministrationA Life-Changing CareerPosition Summary: This position is focused on providing support to the Mayo Clinic Health System Southeast Region Hospital Service Line and will sit in Austin.A clinical nurse specialist...
12.06.2016
Department: NursingA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) works collaboratively to improve the quality of patient care and promote desired patient outcomes in a designated population/specialty practice. This...
12.02.2016
Department: NursingA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) works collaboratively to improve the quality of patient care and promote desired patient outcomes in a Cardiovascular Surgery (CV) population/specialty...
12.05.2016
Job Exempt Yes General Job Summary The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) is a Licensed Registered Nurse with graduate preparation (Masters or Doctorate) who is educated as a Clinical Nurse Specialist and certified as an Advanced Practice...
  1. Clinical Nurse Specialist Cambridge, MA Mount Auburn Hospital
    Clinical Nurse Specialist Maternal Child Health must have clinical expertise in Labor and Delivery; Mother/Baby experience preferred and 3-5 years in staff education or related field. NRP and BLS certification required. Masters degree required....
  2. CLINICAL NURSE SPECIALIST Roanoke, VA Carilion Clinic
    Position will support Dialysis and Vascular Surgery Support Carilion's hallmarks of service excellence and quality for all job responsibilities. Provides direct/indirect specialized, comprehensive care, emphasizing health promotion, disease...
  3. Clinical Nurse Specialist Maple Grove, MN Maple Grove Hospital
    The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) is accountable for continuous improvement of patient outcomes and nursing care. The CNS is responsible and accountable for diagnosis and treatment of health/illness states, disease management, health promotion,...
  4. Clinical Nurse Specialist, Inpatient Diabetes Arlington, VA Virginia Hospital Center
    Come join Virginia Hospital Center's Staff Development Team! Our Diabetes Program has received the Gold Seal of Approval from the Joint Commission for advanced certification in Inpatient Diabetes. The Clinical Nurse Specialist is responsible...
  5. Nurse Practitioner/Clinical Nurse Specialist-Midtown Indianapolis, IN Eskenazi Health
    The Midtown Nurse Practitioner/Clinical Nurse Specialist demonstrates clinical expertise in assessment, diagnostic reasoning, and the therapeutic management of acutely and chronically ill individuals. The NP/CNS will use research and theoretical...
  6. Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist, RN Job Rochester, MN Mayo Clinic - Rochester
    Department: Nursing Clinical Practice & EducationA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) works collaboratively to improve the quality of patient care and promote desired patient outcomes in a designated...
  7. Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist - Connected Care Job Rochester, MN Mayo Clinic - Rochester
    Department: DONA Life-Changing CareerPosition Summary: Clinical Nurse Specialist: Connected CareResponsibilities: The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) works collaboratively to improve the quality of patient care and promote desired patient...
  8. Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist - Ambulatory Pediatrics Job Rochester, MN Mayo Clinic - Rochester
    Department: NursingA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) works collaboratively to improve the quality of patient care and promote desired patient outcomes in a designated pediatric population/specialty...
  9. Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist - Medical Job Rochester, MN Mayo Clinic - Rochester
    Department: NursingA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) works collaboratively to improve the quality of patient care and promote desired patient outcomes in a designated population/specialty practice. The...
  10. Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS): Pediatrics Job Rochester, MN Mayo Clinic - Rochester
    Department: DONA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) works collaboratively to improve the quality of patient care and promote desired patient outcomes in the pediatric population/specialty practice. This...
  11. Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist - Ambulatory Job Rochester, MN Mayo Clinic - Rochester
    Department: NursingA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) works collaboratively to improve the quality of patient care and promote desired patient outcomes in the ambulatory population/specialty practice. This...
  12. Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) - Hospital Service Line Job Rochester, MN Mayo Clinic - Rochester
    Department: Nursing AdministrationA Life-Changing CareerPosition Summary: This position is focused on providing support to the Mayo Clinic Health System Southeast Region Hospital Service Line and will sit in Austin.A clinical nurse specialist...
  13. Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist - Complex Intervention Unit Job Rochester, MN Mayo Clinic - Rochester
    Department: NursingA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) works collaboratively to improve the quality of patient care and promote desired patient outcomes in a designated population/specialty practice. This...
  14. Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS): CV surgery Job Rochester, MN Mayo Clinic - Rochester
    Department: NursingA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) works collaboratively to improve the quality of patient care and promote desired patient outcomes in a Cardiovascular Surgery (CV) population/specialty...
  15. Clinical Nurse Specialist- Nursing Professional Development-OMC-Jeff Hwy New Orleans, LA Ochsner Health System
    Job Exempt Yes General Job Summary The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) is a Licensed Registered Nurse with graduate preparation (Masters or Doctorate) who is educated as a Clinical Nurse Specialist and certified as an Advanced Practice...