Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs: Becoming an Expert

Clinical nurse specialist programs are one of many advanced nursing practice programs available. It offers the student the chance to specialize in one particular area of nursing and become an expert in that field. CNS programs are designed to produce expert nurses that practice in hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care organizations.

Unlike nurse practitioners who tend to go toward independent practice outside big organizations, graduates of a CNS program become collaborators and managers of care in a facility. They are usually more specialized than NP’s who are trained to be generalists. These programs prepare students to assume the role of a clinical nurse specialist (CNS).

One core function of the CNS is that of a case manager who organizes and facilitate resources, control costs, and introduce best practices in order to achieve positive outcomes. Another important function is that of a teacher – educating nursing students, staff nurses, and patients and their families regarding ways to achieve optimum health.

Students need to know the prerequisites and accreditation status of a CNS program. The most basic entrance requirement is a registered nurse (RN) license. Schools have different tuition, class schedules and requirements for entry. RN’s who want to enroll must do their own research to find out what is available in their area. Most schools offer online classes to accommodate the busy working schedules of CNS students.

Clinical nurse specialist programs are actually masters in nursing (MSN) programs with different CNS tracks. These tracks are specialty areas in nursing. There are a lot of specialization choices available to the nurse. Students can choose a specialty based on nursing populations such as neonatal nursing, women’s health or geriatric nursing. They can choose based on a particular practice setting such as community health nursing, rehabilitation nursing and school health nursing. Or they can choose according to diseases like cardiovascular nursing, oncology nursing and psychiatric nursing.

CNS programs aim to train nurses to become strong leaders, effective communicators, and clinical experts. They will not only become excellent clinicians that can step in and take charge of complex nursing scenarios but also resource experts that can guide and mentor less-experienced nurses.

Graduates of these programs must pass a certification test given by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and be registered by the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS). The certificate awarded is based on the specialization studied such as Adult Health CNS or Pediatric CNS, to name a few. In addition, CNS certificates are also given by other organizations like the American Association of Critical Care Nurses Certification and the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation.

Clinical nurse specialists face bright futures in their work settings. The average salary of a CNS nurse is between $75,000 to $80,000. Professionally, they would also be rewarded, as health care facilities and organizations as well as under served locations would be needing more clinical nurse specialists to train other nurses, provide expert nursing care, and manage resources to optimize outcomes.

Nurses who want to become clinical nurse specialists and experts in a particular area that can handle the complexities of total patient care can achieve that by completing a CNL program. These clinical nurse specialist programs also give nurses the opportunity to become educators of patients and colleagues and not just “practicing professional nurses.”

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