What is a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

There are a number of advanced and specialty positions within the nursing field, and a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is one such position that offers a supervisory role with diverse duties. A CNS usually holds a master’s or doctoral degree. These registered nurses oversee complex patient care, mentor nursing staff and perform administrative duties to ensure quality care. It’s common for these professionals to be experts in an area of healthcare such as cardiac disease, wound care or diabetes. They can work in settings like hospitals, private practices, clinics or hospices, according to Discover Nursing. Keep reading to learn more about this valuable career and how to enter the field.

More About the Clinical Nurse Specialist Role

Clinical nurse specialists do have some interaction with patients.This is necessary in order to assess patient needs when developing and implementing plans of care. However, they also hold an administrative role that keeps them behind the scenes quite often. This position falls under the category of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) due to the degree held and responsibilities required. It is the responsibility of the CNS to identify ways to improve upon overall patient care and facility function. These leaders typically manage the clinical practices of multiple units. A clinical nurse specialist serves as a consultant to other nurses and medical staff when complex issues arise. In a nutshell, a CNS is a leader, educator and administrator.

Unique Benefits Added by Clinical Nurse Specialists

The clinical nurse specialist role is a much-needed one in today’s healthcare climate. The unique knowledge and skillsets held by these professionals adds benefit in a broad spectrum of ways. Clinical specialists get to know their staff and address problems in a proactive manner in order to increase retention for their facility. They stay up to date on best nursing practices and facilitate the use of such practices throughout their area of charge. It is this role that is directly responsible for patient safety, as well. The CNS also advocates for the best and most cost-efficient patient outcomes. They work to promote the best possible outcome for each patient and tirelessly strive to improve the performance of their facility.

Certification and Licensure

Some educational programs require that students choose a population of focus in order to be eligible for certification. There are a wide variety of choices such as neonatal, women’s health, gerontology, pediatric and psychiatric. Having a specialty with regard to population is beneficial in a similar manner to choosing a clinical specialty. These types of expertise make the CNS more marketable and better able to serve the facility for which they are employed. Whether licensure or certification is required for CNS practice is determined on a state by state basis. There are 12 states that don’t have any such requirements. States that do officially recognize the position of CNS have some type of national licensure or certification mandate.

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If you are looking for a leadership role in nursing that holds a great deal of variety and responsibility, becoming a CNS may be a wise choice for you. A clinical nurse specialist plays a pivotal role in the success of an institution, along with the well being of its patients and staff.