A clinical nurse specialist is a registered nurse with advanced training and expertise in a specific area of healthcare. Clinical nurses typically possess an advanced nursing degree in the specialty of their choice so that they can function in a capacity that regular registered nurses cannot. Clinical nurses can specialize in providing direct care to a specific patient demographic such as the elderly and children. Other clinical nurses specialize in specific medical units such as in emergency rooms, operating rooms, or intensive care units. Registered nurses can also undergo training for specialization on specific diseases and illnesses like cancer, HIV/AIDS, viral infections, or cardiovascular diseases.
With training, a clinical nurse specialist can also develop after-care plans for patients, administer medical tests and interpret the results, work with supervising physicians on highly technical tasks, undertake clinical research, and hold administrative positions in hospitals or other health institutions at a managerial level. Clinical nurses may be tasked to head nursing units and evaluate the performance of other registered nurses and nursing aides.
A clinical nurse specialist must complete a Masters In Nursing or other related post-graduate health course. Clinical nurses must also pass certification exams administered by state government regulators. Their extensive training includes courses in public health policy, quantitative methods in medical research, and advanced inquiry methods in nursing, physiology, health theory, and acute illness assessment. They should also take special courses based on the specialty that they choose. Like all health professionals, clinical nurses are expected to undergo constant training through seminars, post-grad courses, and fellowships throughout their careers. A good percentage of clinical nurse specialists go on and complete doctoral degrees.
The decision to specialize on a certain field depends on the demand for the specialty, expected salary, and prospective career path. The demand for specialists differs between cities and states. The area of clinical expertise may be based on the type of population such as pediatric nursing or geriatric nursing, the job setting such as clinical care nursing and emergency nursing, a certain disease such as oncologic nurses, and type of care such as psychiatric and rehabilitation nurses.
Other than hospitals, a clinical nurses can find jobs in private company clinics, school and university clinics, government agencies, clinical research companies, pharmaceutical companies, nursing homes, and more. A clinical nurse specialist earns an average annual salary of $78,735.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that nursing professions can grow by as much as 14% by 2016. This is attributed to the retirement of the baby-boomer generation that will increase the demand for health care services. Clinical nurse specialists are also in high demand in European countries since their population is aging much like the United States. As the demand for nurses grow, foreign immigrants are expected to fill the large gap in demand in industrializes countries, which is a trend that is already happening in the United States and some countries in Europe. Likewise, the demand for highly-skilled nurses with post-graduate degrees is expected to increase.