There are several accredited nursing schools, online colleges, and major universities that offer clinical nurse specialist (CNS) programs. A CNS is an advanced practice nurse who has either a Master’s or a Doctoral degree in a particular practice area. This includes pediatrics, geriatrics, adult health, women’s health, critical care, and emergency care, just to name a few.
Job Duties and Career Opportunities for CNS Graduates
CNS healthcare professionals perform similar duties as nurse practitioners. The clinical nurse specialist often works in a healthcare facility, teaching nursing staff and offering expert care. Nurse practitioners, on the other hand, mainly work in office and outpatient type settings.
There are a lot of similarities between the CNS and NP specialties in terms of populations and sub-specialties. However, the clinical nurse specialist often works in a hospital setting, providing expert care and mentoring other staff members, whereas nurse practitioners frequently work outside of the hospital, in more generalist roles. Many CNS professionals also are certified as nurse practitioners.
Clinical Nurse Specialist Educational Requirements
The first step to becoming a clinical nurse specialist is the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. This nursing program is generally four years in length, and upon completion, you must take and pass the NCLEX-RN test. After this, you must gain acceptance into a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program. Entry into these nursing programs requires a suitable score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), an active nursing license, and letters of recommendation.
ANCC Certification – The ANCC is the primary source for most nursing certifications. Some CNS certifications offered by the ANCC include:
- The CNS Core Examination
- Adult Health CNS
- Adult Psychiatric and Mental Health CNS
- Community Health CNS
- Diabetes Management CNS
- Geriatrics CNS
- Pediatrics CNS
Other Certification – Several professional organizations offer CNS certification. These include the American Association of Critical Care Nurses Certification Corporation (AACCNCC), the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC), and the Orthopedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB).
Courses of Study of a Clinical Nurse Specialist Program
The courses of study will vary depending on the chose practice specialty. However, most CNS classes include nursing research, pathophysiology, pharmacology, health assessment, program development, health promotion and disease prevention, theory, ethics, and philosophy of advanced practice nursing.
CNS Healthcare Professional Salaries
According to most web sources, clinical nurse specialists earn an average annual salary of anywhere from $65,000 to $85,000. While it is not the highest paid advanced practice nurse profession, these professionals enjoy many benefits including job security and advancement opportunities. Salary varies based on years of experience, degree level, and place of employment.
AACN (2013): http://www.aacn.nche.edu/education-resources/nursing-education-programs
ANA (2013): http://www.nursingworld.org/
BLS (2013): http://www.bls.gov/
Nurse.Org (2013): http://www.nurse.org/orgs.shtml
NACNS (2013): http://nacns.org/