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What does a Clinical Nurse Specialist do?

Nursing is one of the most vital fields in existence. While doctors may make diagnoses, prescribe medications and devise treatment regimens, it is nurses that make it all happen. They are the ones most responsible for the actual tracking of a patient's condition and the hands on care that patients receive.

Within the nursing field, as with any technical field, there are many levels of expertise. Those that attain the highest levels of education and skill are known as a Clinical Nurse Specialist. The ANA (American Nurses Association) defines a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) as "A nurse who is an expert in a defined area of knowledge and who practices in a selected area of expertise." In simpler terms, this means that a Clinical Nurse Specialist is someone who has already qualified as a Registered Nurse (RN) and then has gone on to specialize, just as some doctors do, in the care of and issues surrounding a particular type of patient or disorder.

Some of these specialties include:
  • Community Health
  • Gerontology
  • Oncology
  • Psychiatry
  • Women's Health
  • Acute Care
  • Adult and Family Care
  • Neonatal and Pediatric Care
Within these specialties a Clinical Nurse Specialist may perform all of the duties that you would expect of a nurse, but in addition to their traditional role may also act as a:
  • Treatment Coordinator
  • Researcher
  • Educator
  • Consultant
  • Clinical Expert
In fact, many times, in cases that involve a high degree of interdisciplinary treatment, it is actually a Clinical Nurse Specialist that has overall responsibility for the patients' treatment rather than any of the attending physicians.

As can be imagined, a field that carries the great responsibility that a Clinical Nurse Specialist enjoys is not simple to enter. You must first work your way up the ladder of nursing beginning as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). Then receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). This will qualify you to take the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses). Pass this exam and you will become an RN. Once you have qualified as an RN you will need to continue your education, completing a master's program, preferably a Master of Science in Nursing and then continue your education in your desired specialty.

Though a difficult field to enter, the overall benefits make becoming a Clinical Nurse Specialist well worthwhile. Clinical Nurse Specialists enjoy a very high salary rate compared to most fields and, with a rate of demand that is increasing every year, it is one of the most secure job fields available.

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