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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.

clinical nurse specialist

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.

What does a Director of Nursing do?

Nursing often invokes images of bedside patient care, and for good reason: nurses set up IVs, administer medicine, and provide for the health and well-being of patients. But this is not the life of all nurses. As a director of nursing, your primary tasks will be administrative.

director of nursing

The director of nursing has tough shoes to fill. To be successful, first, you need to be an excellent nurse. Additionally, you need to possess a high level of tact, patience and strong leadership, listening and negotiation skills. On top of all this, you must be good with numbers, in particular, finances.

Becoming a director of nursing

Becoming a director of nursing does not happen overnight. Your first step, if you have not already done so, is to become a Registered Nurse, or RN. You can become a RN by earning a bachelor’s or associate degree or by completing a hospital-administered diploma program.

While both bachelors’ and associates’ in registered nursing are widely available (unlike diplomas, which are hard to find), earning a bachelor’s degree could allow the most direct entry into administrative positions. Increasingly, employers require master’s degrees from nursing administrators. With a bachelor’s degree, you can apply directly to graduate school.

Becoming a director of nursing, though, typically takes more than earning an RN degree. Lucky for you, there are plenty of educational programs–mostly at the graduate level–that offer degrees in nursing administration. These programs involve taking such courses as:

  • Health care policy
  • Advanced nursing research
  • Health care finance
  • Nursing administration
  • Human resources management

Furthermore, even as advanced degrees are often preferred for nursing administrators, it is possible to land such a job with a bachelor’s degree. Doing so with an associate degree is a considerable challenge.

Director of nursing careers

Even with a shiny degree in hand, you need to practice as a RN before becoming an administrator. This is a good thing: How can you direct nursing without first being a nurse? A common route toward becoming a director of nursing involves the following steps:

  • Working as a RN
  • Becoming head nurse or assistant unit manager
  • Advancing to assistant director
  • Becoming director of nursing

And the steps don’t have to stop there. For the very ambitious, there are vice president and chief of nursing positions, which carry high levels of responsibility and offer high pay. In general, the more administrative duties your job entails, the more it should pay.

What does a Family Nurse Practitioner do?

Family nurse practitioners provide comprehensive family care to patient of all ages. They don’t specialize in a particular kind of medicine, but are primary care providers. In small villages and rural areas, it’s not uncommon for family nurse practitioners to run small medical offices or even clinics by themselves.

family nurse practitioner

According to the American Academy of Nurse Practioners, nurse practitioners (NPs) provide healthcare services similar to those of medical doctors. They diagnose and treat medical conditions, prescribe medications, manage patients’ overall care, etc.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, NPs serve as primary and specialty care providers, providing a blend of nursing and healthcare services to patients and families. The most common specialty areas for nurse practitioners are family practice, adult practice, women’s health, pediatrics, acute care, and geriatrics.

Educational requirements for family nurse practitioners

Family nurse practitioners are always registered nurses, but their training, education and qualifications exceed those of registered nurses.

In order to become a registered nurse (RN) in the U.S., one needs to either obtain a four-year college degree, a two-year associate degree or, more rarely, complete a diploma program. Most registered nurses obtain four-year bachelor’s degrees in nursing. The coursework includes classes in anatomy, patient care, nursing, pharmacology, leadership, etc.

Family nurse practitioners are considered advanced practice nurses, and as such, must hold a master’s degree in nursing, which can be obtained in two to four years of study at a private or public university.

Online options, especially at for-profit universities, are also an attractive option for busy RNs who want to become nurse practitioners. In all states in the U.S., nurses must pass a licensing examination, known as the NCLEX-RN, in order to obtain a nursing license.

How much do registered nurses earn?

The job outlook for nurses – and the entire health care profession – is excellent, even though it can vary by region. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of registered nurses is expected to grow by 22 percent.

The BLS also predicts that the advanced practice areas, which include nurse practitioners, will continue to be in high demand, particularly in medically underserved areas, including rural areas and inner cities.

Most of the nation’s RNs work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, in home health services, outpatient care services or in nursing care facilities. The states with the highest employment for RNs are California, Texas, New York and Florida, while the highest-paying states are California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Alaska and Maryland.

If you think that the nation’s fastest growing employment sector–healthcare–is a good fit for you, then nursing might just be up your alley. Start the journey now by choosing the nursing degree that fits your needs.