For anyone interested in pursuing nursing as a vocation, a clinical nurse specialist career should be one of the top considerations. In the eyes of many people, nurses are simply nurses, and they’re all pretty much interchangeable. While it’s true that all nurses are required to be able to perform a wide range of functions, it’s certainly not the case that one nursing position is just like another. Just as not all doctors choose to become general practitioners but instead specialize in a certain area, the same is true of nurses. Those nurses who choose to focus on one aspect of nursing to become an expert in that area are known as clinical nurse specialists (CNS), and CNS is one of the most prestigious of medical careers.
A clinical nurse specialist career can take a wide variety of forms, as several aspects of nursing can become the focus of the specialization. One way is to specialize in the care of a particular patient population, such as a pediatric nurse who works with small children or a gerontology nurse who works with elderly patients. A different kind of specialization is based on the hospital setting—an ER nurse focuses on the emergency room, while an OR (operating room) nurse specializes in assisting with surgeries. Then there are nurses who specialize in helping patients suffering from a particular condition, such as cancer, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS. Yet another segment focuses on the nature of the care provided, as in the case of psych (psychiatric) nurses or rehab nurses. Finally, there are nurses who specialize in serving patients with a particular problem (no matter their disease or problem) such as pain management. Some of these specialties also contain subspecialties, so there are many different forms a clinical nurse specialist career can take.
No matter what specialty nurses choose, it’s a requirement that they must first be a registered nurse; licensed practical nurses don’t qualify for these positions. In addition to possessing an RN degree, the nurse must also obtain at least a master’s degree in the field in which he or she wants to specialize. In some fields, a doctorate degree is available, and generally speaking, the higher the level of a person’s education, the more opportunities there are available. For most specialties, however, a master’s degree is all that is necessary. In addition to the higher level of education, in order to embark on a clinical nurse specialist career, a nurse will also have to pass the demanding certification test from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), which will require rigorous study.
Nurse salaries are well above average in the United States, and salaries in the clinical nurse specialist career are even higher than what the average registered nurse makes. The U.S. is currently facing an unprecedented shortage of registered nurses, and the shortage of specialist nurses is even worse. That factor alone guarantees that salaries in these fields will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. Another result of the severe shortage is that nurses can pick and choose the jobs they want, and even move across the country with no worries about finding work. Many nurses choose to work for nurse staffing agencies in short-term assignments, which gives them flexibility for family, travel, and pursuit of their hobbies.
Even now, some CNS nurses make over $100,000 a year. On top of that, official projections from the government state that because of the huge increase expected in the number of elderly Americans in the near future, the specialist nurse shortage will become critical. If you’re already a registered nurse and would like to expand your horizons, now is the perfect time to start down that path. If you’re just now considering becoming a nurse, a clinical nurse specialist career is definitely one option you’ll want to consider.