Becoming a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

A clinical nurse specialist is a nurse with specific training in a field of medicine. This can include:


This list is by no means exhaustive; rather, it is merely meant to provide you a general idea of some of the different areas. These specialties can range from helping patients that are adults, children, and geriatric patients. Some clinical nurse specialists also deal with the parent-child relationship in terms of its effect on health and future health. Clinical nurse specialists may be found in hospital settings, private practices, government organization, long-term care facilities, and other various agencies.

To become a clinical nurse specialist, you need to have the proper training. This generally includes (depending on the state and school requirements) receiving a registered nurse certification and then going back to obtain a master’s degree in the area of specialization. This master’s program will generally take two additional years of study with about 500 hours of hands-on training.

You can find a clinical nurse specialist program at many colleges and universities as the demand for highly trained clinical nurse specialists increases over time. These colleges should be accredited, recognized by the state, and offer a lengthy clinical rotation.

The job duties that a clinical nurse specialist may fulfill vary across specialties, but may include:

  • Dealing directly with patients and their families
  • Administration tasks including scheduling of procedures, appointments, testing, referrals, and admissions
  • The creation and maintenance of teaching programs
  • Nursing instruction as needed
  • Working with physicians and other health care staff to coordinate efforts for the good of patients
  • Evaluation of treatment and cost-effectiveness of this care
  • Nursing practice implementation and design
  • Medication administering and prescribing
  • Supervising other health care workers
  • Consulting with other health care workers about the status and care of a patient

The average starting salary of a clinical nurse specialist is about $50,000 annually with generous pay increases for experience and specialty. And the CNS career path doesn’t have to stop at this high level. Many nurses go on to higher levels of nursing administration, formulating plans and making decisions that can change the overall standards of care at a health care facility.

Interested in becoming a CNS? You’ll need a degree first. Begin your search for a nursing school here:

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