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What Does a Clinical Nurse Specialist do?

Most individuals are familiar with a licensed practical nurse, or LPN, and a registered nurse, or RN, but the duties of a clinical nurse specialist may be somewhat unfamiliar. In order to get a better understanding of what a clinical nurse specialist does it is helpful to think of these three different nursing positions as a ladder that an individual can climb. The first step would be that of an LPN who needs at least a year of training at a vocational, technical or community college. The next step would be to become a registered nurse who needs a more advanced education than that of an LPN.

Becoming a clinical nurse specialist requires even more training than that of a registered nurse. They also have more responsibilities at the clinic or hospital that they are employed at than a licensed practical nurse or a registered nurse. An LPN would likely be responsible for monitoring patients, taking vital signs and even giving injections. A registered nurse, on the other hand, will be responsible for giving treatments, observing patients and aiding in determining the best treatment for them. A registered nurse can also choose to specialize in certain areas such as the ER or in cardiac care.

A clinical nurse specialist is often responsible for supervising other nurses and for creating programs that can be used to improve patient care at the facility where they are employed. A clinical nurse specialist must also work with treatment specialists and doctors and will most likely have a specialized skill set themselves. For example, a clinical nurse specialist may specialize in helping a specific group of people like the elderly or work in a specific department within a hospital like oncology. Some clinical nurse specialists specialized in psychiatric care, rehabilitation or a variety of other areas.

Most individuals set out to become a registered nurse rather than a clinical nurse specialist. Of the over 2 1/2 million registered nurses in this country, only about 75,000 of them are clinical nurse specialists. The vast majority of these individuals work in hospital settings. Although registered nurses make a good wage, a clinical nurse specialist has the potential to earn an even higher salary but they also generally need five years of nursing experience and at least a Masters degree. The higher wage and greater responsibility that comes with this position are often the primary reasons that an individual will choose to further their education after they have become a registered nurse.