A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is an advanced practice nurse who has hands-on expertise, advanced knowledge, and a certification in a given specialty. The graduate-level nursing education and extensive training that the CNS must go through preparing them to practice autonomously and to adequately assess, diagnose, and manage patient problems. The type of specialty area that a clinical nurse specialist works in is defined by the patient population types that they're treating, the kind of care needed, the medical setting, or the type of disease or illness. Although they're both advanced nurses, clinical nurse specialists shouldn't be confused with nurse practitioners as their respective scopes of practice are different. Whereas nurse practitioners tend to carry out tasks like taking patients' health history and acting as their primary care provider, clinical nurse specialists usually tend to focus on research, education and consulting.
Common tasks and duties that are carried out by clinical nurse specialists include:
RNs in CNS roles enjoy a wide variety of high-level employment opportunities in settings such as:
The journey to becoming a clinical nurse specialist is a long and arduous one. CNS aspirants must know that they will be required to achieve a graduate-level education in nursing. While earning a graduate degree, students take courses in advanced pharmacology, advanced pathophysiology, and advanced physical/health assessment. Other prominent topics will include ethics, research methods, and healthcare systems management. Upon completing an MSN or DNP program, prospective clinical nurse specialists can apply for various CNS certifications such as adult health, pediatric health, and others through organizations such as the American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).
To become a CNS, the following educational requirements must be met:
Not only do clinical nurse specialists need to possess an active and unrestricted RN license, but they must also have graduate-level degrees (i.e. MSN, DNP) and certifications in their respective specialty area.
Clinical nurse specialists can become certified in the various specialties that are available through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).
The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers an Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist Certification (AGCNS-BC). Requirements for this certification are as follows:
*Certification must be renewed every five years
The American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) offers Clinical Nurse Specialist certifications in Adult-Gerontology, Pediatric, and Neonatal. Eligibility requirements are as follows:
An aging population combined with a sharp rise in obesity - which has increased rates of heart disease and diabetes - are both contributing factors to the continued growth of the healthcare sector. Furthermore, nurses with the highest levels of training and education - which often include clinical nurse specialists - tend to be in the highest demand. According to a survey carried out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 91% of clinical nurse specialists were moderately or extremely satisfied with their work
According to PayScale.com, the average annual salary for clinical nurse specialists is about $87,502. The earning potential of a CNS will depend on factors like location, how much experience they have, their employer, their education level, and the certifications they hold. Employee benefits that the CNS can expect to receive if employed full-time include medical, dental, vision, and prescription insurance coverage. They can also expect to receive some paid vacation/sick time each year - generally about two to four weeks.