Becoming a Clinical Nurse Specialist

Clinical Nurse Specialists are licensed registered nurses (RNs) who hold a master’s or doctor’s degree in a specialized area of nursing practice such as pediatrics, geriatrics, women’s health, critical care, diabetes, oncology, psychiatric, rehabilitation etc. They not only perform the conventional nursing responsibilities, but also help patients prevent or treat illness. The Clinical Nurse Specialists provide direct patient care as well as serve as expert consultants for nursing staffs.

Educational Requirements:

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing: All aspiring Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs) must attend the nursing school to obtain a bachelor’s degree. The duration of the course will be of four years. Courses in nursing degree programs will typically include pharmacology, anatomy, physiology and nursing.
  2. Obtain License as Registered Nurse: Licensing is must for all Clinical Nurse Specialists before they start practicing. Most states in the US require the aspirants to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
  3. Experience: It is almost mandatory to gain one to two years of direct patient experience at a clinical set up before applying for a Master’s program in Nursing.
  4. Earn a Master’s Degree: Master’s Degree programs for Clinical Nurse Specialists take 2-3 years to complete. These programs help in developing the nursing skills, nursing practices and assessment capabilities among the students.
  5. Certification: Several certification programs are available for the Clinical Nurse Specialists, which are generally 4-5 year long. The key certification programs include:
  • Certifications for Advanced Practice in Orthopedics by the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board)
  • Critical Care by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses
  • Oncology by the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation
  • Adult Health, Gerontology, Psychiatric, Home Health and Community Health by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Salary & Job Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for Clinical Nursing Specialists will grow at 26% during the period of 2012-2022. Highest salary in this profession remains $126,000, while the average salary is $86,500.

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