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What Is a Clinical Nurse Specialist and How to Become One

What Is a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is an advanced practice nurse with either a master’s degree or doctorate in nursing and additional specialty education in a specific medical field. As a nursing specialist, you will perform health care services in your clinical specialty by assessing and treating patients. In many states, CNS’s are allowed to prescribe medications. Their responsibilities include supervising nurses who work under them, teaching techniques and methods to better care for patients, and influencing changes in policies and procedures on behalf of patients.

How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist

Becoming a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) requires multiple degrees in nursing. First, you must become a registered nurse (RN), through an accredited registered nurse program. You could also decide to complete a bachelor’s of science in nursing, or BSN. Following the program, you must pass an exam and obtain a state license to become an RN. Then, you must complete a CNS master’s degree or doctorate program, which allows you to become an advanced practice nurse. After that, you must complete 500 hours of clinical nursing for your specialty. Finally, you must pass an exam for your CNS specialty administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. You can then apply for your state certification.

What Makes a Good Clinical Nurse Specialist?

To be a good clinical nurse specialist (CNS), you need to not only provide exceptional medical care to your patients, but also continue to effect change through policy changes, training, and community education. Clinical nurse specialists diagnose and treat patients, but they also influence teams of nurses and support staff which work under their guidance. You can effect positive change in your facility or organization by implementing practical changes and evidence-based methods of patient care. Your ability to communicate effectively helps you connect with patients and their families, along with your staff.

Where Do Clinical Nurse Specialists Work?

A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) can work in a variety of health care locations. As a CNS, you will focus on patients and their families, nurse management, or administration. You might work in a clinic where you supervise nursing staff, in a hospital where you perform research and implement procedural changes, or tend to patients in an educational setting where you deliver information to your local community. Your daily duties depend on your CNS specialty. For example, you can choose a specialty working in pediatrics, geriatrics, oncology, rehabilitation, and more.