What is a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

A clinical nurse specialist is a medical professional who provides direct care, case management, and counseling services for patients. He or she is a registered nurse who has received extensive education and training regarding a specific type of disease or patient. A clinical nurse specialist may assume a managerial role in a hospital setting, observing other nurses and procedures to determine where improvements need to be made and how to achieve them. Most specialists work in emergency rooms, critical care units, nursing homes, mental health clinics, treatment centers. Some experienced professionals choose to work in home health care or independent, private practices.

In hospitals, mental health facilities, and other medical settings, clinical nurse specialists focus on particular conditions or populations in order to provide the best care possible. For example, a nurse may concentrate on pediatric patients with very different types of ailments, or specialize in treating brain cancer patients of all ages. Nurses commonly specialize in psychiatric nursing, geriatrics, infectious diseases, occupational health, or oncology, among several other specialties.


A clinical nurse specialist might help diagnose and treat a patient, providing intensive direct care and counseling services to help the patient overcome his or her condition. Specialists use their detailed knowledge to provide accurate assessments of patients' illnesses or conditions, and confer with doctors about appropriate treatment plans. Nurses are typically involved in all stages of patient care, from initial evaluations to ongoing patient consultations. Nurses frequently counsel recovering patients on how to manage long term conditions and maintain personal relationships, jobs, and independent living situations.

Many nurses evaluate and make changes to the various systems in place in a medical center. A clinical nurse specialist might help staff members become more efficient or offer training on specific nursing procedures to ensure safety and effectiveness. When a nurse determines that new or additional medical equipment is needed, he or she brings the issue to the attention of hospital management. The nurse researches options and explains what items are necessary to improve patient care.

To become a clinical nurse specialist, a person must typically obtain at least a master's degree in nursing, one to two years of clinical experience, usually in a critical care or emergency room setting. A new nurse must become licensed by passing a written exam administered by his or her state or country's nursing board. Many nurses seek further certification in their specialties from a nationally accredited organization, such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center in the United States.



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