How Do I Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

Jessica F. Black

In order to become a clinical nurse specialist, you will need to have an advanced degree, specialized training, and licensing, which may vary depending on the location that you intend to practice in. The duties of a clinical nurse are complex, and experience is usually recommended to become a clinical nurse specialist. There are a variety of careers in this field, including teaching, management, consulting, clinical practice, and research positions. Most clinical nurse specialists have a particular field of expertise that they focus on, such as geriatric, cardiovascular, infectious disease, neonatal, or oncology nursing. One of the first steps you should take is to determine the field that you are interested in before beginning your education.

Clinical nurse specialists help to diagnose and treat patients.
Clinical nurse specialists help to diagnose and treat patients.

Once you have researched and decided on a particular career, you should find a school that offers a master of science (MSN) degree in clinical nursing that focuses on your field of choice. Before entering a MSN program, you will need to graduate from a four year undergraduate program and obtain a bachelor's degree. The subject of this degree may vary, but a pre-medical or science focus is usually preferred. Some of the general coursework needed to become a clinical nurse specialist could include advanced pharmacology, family nursing, adult health, and ethical issues in advanced nursing practice. Aside from general coursework, you will be required to enroll in specialized courses in your field in order to successfully become a clinical nurse specialist.

Some clinical nurses specialize in geriatrics, working with elderly patients and their caregivers.
Some clinical nurses specialize in geriatrics, working with elderly patients and their caregivers.

Licensing requirements may vary depending on the country, but most locations require that you are certified before practicing medicine. Research all local requirements before starting your educational career in order to organize the necessary steps needed for that jurisdiction. Most students are eligible for licensing exams after successfully completing the MSN program. Licenses are usually administered after passing an extensive exam, or a series of exams in some locations. Graduate level coursework should adequately prepare you for these tests.

In addition to an education and a license, you will need to gain experience before you can become a clinical nurse specialist. Some students choose to build their experience background early in their education and may take jobs or internships in health services. This step is not needed to complete your education or obtain a license but will benefit your chances of finding employment directly after graduation. Communication skills and a caring personality is almost always necessary in this field because it is based on constant interaction with patients, physicians, and other medical professionals.

A master of science degree in clinical nursing is required to become a clinical nurse specialist.
A master of science degree in clinical nursing is required to become a clinical nurse specialist.

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