For nurses looking to move into more of a leadership role, considering a career as a clinical nurse specialist is a powerful step in the right direction. Clinical nurse specialists develop knowledge and leadership skills in one of three general areas. These areas include patients and their families, administration and nurse management. Other nursing staff team members turn to the clinical nurse specialist for expertise and guidance. While they may wear many hats, a clinical nurse specialist has an overall goal of helping to create more effective and efficient care protocol for patients.
Clinical nurse specialists must have strong nursing skills and an overall solid understanding of effective healthcare infrastructure. In addition, they must work well under pressure and must be able to respond appropriately to rapidly changing situations.
Having a personality that builds rapport easily can assist in moving teams toward more aggressive performance goals. Being diplomatic yet tenacious are also two important traits that can help clinical nurse practitioners implement necessary changes in the workplace.
In addition to these skills, an effective clinical nurse specialist must be proficient at handling many details at once and preparing organized reports. They must also be dedicated to upholding the highest ethical standards.
Many clinical nurse specialists work in traditional hospital settings. Others work in assisted living facilities or other residential locations. Some clinical nurse specialists pursue leadership roles in public policy or serve on governance boards. Leaders with a desire to mentor junior nursing staff members may go into teaching at training centers and colleges. Home healthcare companies also hire clinical nurse specialists to manage other nurses and to coordinate and supervise other health professionals.
In addition to being able to provide impeccable direct patient care, clinical nurse specialists need to be proficient in all supporting technology and software required to do their job most effectively. In addition, they must be able to prioritize work, assign responsibilities to others and monitor a wide array of details all happening simultaneously.
It is important for clinical nurse specialists to have strong written and verbal communication skills, as well as the ability to lead productive meetings and advocate for changes that support improved healthcare standards.
In order to become a clinical nurse specialist, it is important to seek reputable training and a variety of clinical experiences. Registered nurses with a master’s degree and several years of related leadership experience may choose to consider additional credentials related to the three umbrella areas mentioned above. As requirements vary from state to state it is important that nurses interested in this leadership role contact their local licensing board for specific details.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) 2015 data, registered nurses earn a median annual salary of approximately $67,490. Depending upon geographic location, education, experience and specific healthcare setting, total annual earnings may vary. Local chapters of related professional associations can often provide the most accurate estimate of potential job outlook and earning potential.
Nursing opportunities are expected to grow at a rate of 16% through 2024, according to the BLS. This is great news for nurses looking to advance their training toward leadership roles. The BLS also reports that top jobs are generally obtained by those with advanced degrees and related experience.
As opportunities for clinical nurse specialists increase throughout the decade, it is important to secure the best training and experience possible in order to leverage the competitive edge and achieve rewarding career longevity throughout the coming decades.