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Career Profile: Clinical Nurse Specialist

Why Is a Clinical Nurse Specialist a Job of Tomorrow?
Employment opportunities for registered nurses, including clinical nurse specialists, are expected to increase 23 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Registered nurses comprise the largest chunk of health care occupations, and will likely remain in that top position.

What Does a Clinical Nurse Specialist Do?
Clinical nurse specialists are registered nurses who are licensed to diagnose and treat illnesses in a variety of specialized fields, such as psychiatric mental health. As experts in the nursing field, they are charged with developing and implementing population-based care programs, evaluating clinics' financial plans, coordinating care teams, conducting and participating in research studies and acting as mentors to other nurses. There are three main realms of the clinical nurse specialist profession: patient and family relations, nursing personnel, and system and network organization. The patient and family realm has the nurse working with people to directly diagnose and treat their conditions. The personnel realm requires the nurse to keep up with developments in nursing while also acting as an example and guide for novice nurses. The system and network organization realm tackles the business side of running a health care facility. In that aspect, the clinical nurse specialist must provide the best care possible at an affordable rate while also keeping the facility financially sound.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist?
Clinical nurse specialists must have a master's degree in nursing. The master's program typically takes about two years to complete. Students take courses in business leadership, management and advanced health topics that pertain to the nurses' specialty field, such as neonatal care. After completing an accredited master's degree nursing program, graduates must satisfactorily complete an exam established by the American Nurses Credentialing Center to become certified clinical nurse specialists.