Clinical nurse specialists have an important role in the modern health care industry - they help to integrate care across the spheres of patient care, nursing and the health care system as a whole. A clinical nurse specialist, also known as a CNS, is a type of nurse practitioner with an advanced specialty, which he or she has studied in a master's or doctorate program. Clinical nurse specialists want to make things better for both nurses and their patients, and improve the health care systems within which they both work or are treated. A CNS mentors nurses, develops positive change in the health care system, and strives to develop new practices that will help reduce stress and prevent/treat illness for a diverse range of patients. Through a strong focus on evidence-based practices, these nurse practitioners have become clinical experts in their fields.
An aspiring clinical nurse specialist must complete a Bachelor of Science in nursing and pass certification exams to become a Registered Nurse, and then apply for entrance into a Clinical Nurse Specialist program. After finishing this master's or doctoral program, graduates must also either pass a certification exam in their area of specialty or complete various state licensing board requirements for specialties that do not have certification exams.
On the Job:
Unlike traditional registered nurses, clinical nurse specialists are qualified to do much more than care for patients by helping to prevent and treat illnesses under the supervision of a physician. They can diagnose and treat conditions, disabilities, illnesses and injuries on their own, as long as they are within their area of expertise. They work directly with patients, and other nurses consult with them when needed. Their primary role is improving the health care system for everyone involved.
Salary, Benefits and More:
There are nearly 70,000 clinical nurse specialists working in a variety of settings in the United States, and the job outlook for this career is positive. There is actually a higher demand for clinical nurse specialists than there are qualified CNS practitioners. At the entry-level range, CNS may start by earning approximately $50,000 annually, but the higher end of the salary range exceeds $100,000 annually, based on factors such as experience, geographic location and specialty.