What Does A Clinical Nurse Specialist Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

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Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Clinical Nurse Specialists

Clinical Nurse Specialists direct nursing staff in the provision of patient care in a clinical practice setting, such as a hospital, hospice, clinic, or home. Ensure adherence to established clinical policies, protocols, regulations, and standards.

Salary
$80010
Becoming One
Very Hard
Education
Master's degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality
Interest Match





Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

What they do

Clinical Nurse Specialists direct nursing staff in the provision of patient care in a clinical practice setting, such as a hospital, hospice, clinic, or home. Ensure adherence to established clinical policies, protocols, regulations, and standards.

  • Collaborate with other health care professionals and service providers to ensure optimal patient care.
  • Provide consultation to other health care providers in areas such as patient discharge, patient care, or clinical procedures.
  • Develop or assist others in the development of care and treatment plans.
  • Develop and maintain departmental policies, procedures, objectives, or patient care standards, based on evidence-based practice guidelines or expert opinion.

Typical day

On a daily basis, Clinical Nurse Specialists collaborate with other health care professionals and service providers to ensure optimal patient care. They provide consultation to other health care providers in areas such as patient discharge, patient care, or clinical procedures.

A typical day for a Clinical Nurse Specialist will also include:

  • Develop or assist others in the development of care and treatment plans.
  • Monitor or evaluate the medical conditions of patients in collaboration with other health care professionals.
  • Direct or supervise nursing care staff in the provision of patient therapy.
  • Present clients with information required to make informed health care and treatment decisions.
  • Maintain departmental policies, procedures, objectives, or infection control standards.

Other responsibilities

Besides their typical day, Clinical Nurse Specialists also coordinate or conduct educational programs or in-service training sessions on topics such as clinical procedures. They may also chair nursing departments or committees.

On a weekly to monthly basis, Clinical Nurse Specialists read current literature, talk with colleagues, or participate in professional organizations or conferences to keep abreast of developments in nursing. They might also develop nursing service philosophies, goals, policies, priorities, or procedures.

In addition, they teach patient education programs that include information required to make informed health care and treatment decisions.

Although specific duties may vary, many of them observe, interview, and assess patients to identify care needs.

To some Clinical Nurse Specialists, it is also their responsibility to perform discharge planning for patients.

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What is the job like

Job satisfaction

Very High

Is this job meaningful

Very High

74% said they were satisfied with their job and 82% said they found their job meaningful.


Pamela Jane Nye

I was a Clinical Nurse Specialist, responsible for the clinical practice and competence of every nurse on the unit.

My work over the past 10-20 years includes the following:

  • When a nurse wasn’t meeting the standards of care, I was expected to evaluate the deficiencies, re-teach when necessary, and collaborate with the unit manager as to whether a nurse should be counseled or released from her/his position.
  • It was up to me to identify acceptable, adequate, and stellar practice standards among the nurses.
  • I was expected to onboard new nurses who were directly out of college. Sometimes that involved going to the patient’s bedside and actually performing the procedure or standing back while the novice performed something for the first time.
  • I was expected to bring new practice to the nurses and instruct them in new areas of practice, including new research.

As a CNS, my favorite element is the variability of every day! Every day is different. Typically I would arrive early and pull the unit census report, review those patients who were not there yesterday. These could be new neurosurgical patients or new admissions with neurological conditions, e.g. stroke, meningitis, encephalitis, or new brain injuries. Depending on their seriousness, I would independently round on these patients and discuss the upcoming day with the nurse.

My job was to have an awareness of every patient on the unit, all 30+ patients in various stages of healing. It was up to me to be sure the nurse was confident and competent to meet the needs of the most complicated and to assist the nurse who was unsure. Because of the behavior component to patients with illness or injury to their brains, I would check in on those who had shown problems with anger or other behavior problems to make sure everyone was coping well, including the families.

On occasion, I would arrange family conferences for those who were expected to pass away within the coming week by involving our hospice team. I would also check in with the new graduate nurses to be sure they are capable to meet the needs of their patients, which sometimes meant working with complicated equipment like lumbar drains or external ventricular devices when making a mistake could be a serious consequence to the well-being of patients. In other words, I was responsible for the competent clinical practice of all the nurses on the unit.

Pros

There are many! I’m seen by the nurses as their clinical expert on the floor. They valued my presence and depended on my opinion. I was always made to feel important and needed by these nurses. I was very involved with ensuring quality efforts for our patients. If the patient and family had a good hospital experience, I knew it was in part due to the influence I had on each, individual nurse’s professionalism, skill, and communication approach. I carried a pager day and night, not because I was tasked to do this, I chose to do it. The night shift nurses needed my presence, too. They knew I was only a phone call away. The residents, some seasoned, some green, knew they could count on my expert advice – day and night. They often expressed their gratitude to me.

Cons

Well, there were very few. I love being a CNS. There were times I would have liked more support from my administrators. It was rare for me to have difficulties, but when I did, they were not always ready with a good solution. I also noticed when awards were handed out, often the Clinical Nurse Specialists were on the awards committee and selection committees, but rarely on the receiving end. I got my “awards” from the nurses who expressed their gratitude every day.

Pamela Jane Nye
Thank A Nurse Team Challenge


Pros

Suitable for people who like to start and carry out projects.

Suitable for people who want to work in a supportive work environment.

This career is perfect for people who love to work indoors.

Demand for this career is growing very fast.

Cons

Not suitable for people who like to work with designs.

It is very hard to get into this career. Extensive skills, knowledge, and experience are required for this career.

Long working hours (More than 40 hours per week).

How much do they make

Average salary

$80010 per year

Average hourly wage

$38 per hour

Entry-level Clinical Nurse Specialists with little to no experience can expect to make anywhere between $53,410 to $61,630 per year or $26 to $30 per hour.

Salary by experience Annual Hourly
Highest (Top 10%) $116,230 $56
Senior (Top 25%) $93,590 $45
Median $75,330 $36
Junior (Bottom 25%) $61,630 $30
No experience (Bottom 10%) $53,410 $26

This table shows the top 10 highest paying industries for Clinical Nurse Specialists based on their average annual salary.

Salary by industry Annual Hourly
Business Support Services $106670 $51.28
Federal Executive Branch $96230 $46.26
Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing $92110 $44.29
Other Investment Pools and Funds $91990 $44.23
Office Administrative Services $89490 $43.02
Outpatient Care Centers $89300 $42.93
Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing $89040 $42.81
Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing $88660 $42.63
Other Amusement and Recreation Industries $84800 $40.77
Wholesale Electronic Markets and Agents and Brokers $84450 $40.60

View more salary by industries here.

Where can they work

Where can Clinical Nurse Specialists work? Here is a table showing the top 10 largest employers of Clinical Nurse Specialists including the average salary in that industry.

Employers Total Employed Annual Salary Hourly Wages
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 1729200 $81680 $39.27
Offices of Physicians 192300 $71660 $34.45
Home Health Care Services 169630 $75870 $36.48
Outpatient Care Centers 150380 $89300 $42.93
Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities) 143250 $72090 $34.66
Federal Executive Branch 86860 $96230 $46.26
Specialty Hospitals 63910 $82910 $39.86
Elementary and Secondary Schools 54500 $62170 $29.89
Employment Services 51860 $75300 $36.20
Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals 39840 $77250 $37.14

What is the work day like

Working hours

Less than 40 hours
0%

40 hours
31%

More than 40 hours
69%

Working schedule

76%

24%

0%

Email

How often do you use email in this job?

Once a week
0%

Every day
100%

Telephone

How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?

Once a week
14%

Every day
86%

Group discussions

How often do you have group discussions in this job?

Once a week
3%

Every day
97%

Public speaking

How often does this job require you to do public speaking?

Never
0%

Once a year
14%

Once a month
34%

Once a week
48%

Every day
3%

Level of competition

How much competitive pressure is in this job?

Not competitive at all
10%

Slightly competitive
21%

Moderately competitive
45%

Highly competitive
21%

Extremely competitive
3%

What is the work environment like

Office-style environment

Indoors in an environmentally controlled condition

Never
7%

Once a year or more
0%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
3%

Every day
90%

Warehouse-style environment

Indoors in a non-controlled environmental condition such as a warehouse

Never
83%

Once a year or more
10%

Once a month or more
3%

Once a week or more
3%

Every day
0%

Outdoors

Outdoors exposed to all weather conditions

Never
86%

Once a year or more
10%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
3%

Every day
0%

Outdoors – Under Cover

Outdoors but under cover (e.g. structure with roof but no walls)

Never
86%

Once a year or more
10%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
3%

Every day
0%

How to become one

Difficulty to become one

Very Hard
You will need an extensive amount of skill, knowledge, and experience. Careers in this difficulty category usually require graduate school and more than five years of experience. These careers usually involve coordinating, training, supervising, or managing the activities of others to accomplish goals. Very advanced communication and organizational skills are required. Similar careers include Pharmacists, Lawyers, Astronomers, Neurologists, and Veterinarians.

Required level of education

What level of education do you need to perform the job?

Less than a High School Diploma
0%

High School Diploma or equivalent
0%

Post-Secondary Certificate
0%

Some College Courses
0%

Associate’s Degree or similar
0%

Bachelor’s Degree
0%

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
0%

Master’s Degree
97%

Post-Master’s Certificate
3%

First Professional Degree
0%

Doctoral Degree
0%

Post-Doctoral Training
0%

Relevant majors

No majors found

Relevant work experience

How much related work experience do you need to get hired for the job?

None
7%

1 month
0%

1 to 3 months
0%

3 to 6 months
0%

6 months to 1 year
0%

1 to 2 years
14%

2 to 4 years
55%

4 to 6 years
21%

6 to 8 years
3%

8 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

On The Job Training

How much on the job training do you need to perform the job?

None or short demonstration
7%

1 month
0%

1 to 3 months
38%

3 to 6 months
31%

6 months to 1 year
17%

1 to 2 years
7%

2 to 4 years
0%

4 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Leader

People with this personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.

The Builder
29%

People with The Builder personality type likes practical and hands-on work. They prefer working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.


The Thinker
57%

People with The Thinker personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.


The Artist
14%

People with The Artist personality likes to work with designs and patterns. They prefer activities that require self-expression and prefer work that can be done without following a clear set of rules.


The Helper
81%

People with The Helper personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.


The Leader
95%

People with The Leader personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.


The Organizer
62%

People with The Organizer personality type likes to follow set procedures and routines. They prefer working with data and details more than with ideas.


You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tend to like starting up and carrying out projects. They like leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk-taking and often deal with business.

They also like working with, communicating with, and teaching people. They like helping or providing service to others.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.

Work Values

Which values are the most important to a person’s satisfaction for this job?

Achievement
76%

You are someone who is results oriented. You prefer work that allows you to utilize your skills and abilities while at the same time giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Working Conditions
71%

You are someone who values job security, steady employment, and good working conditions. You also prefer work that keeps you busy all the time with something different to do every day.

Recognition
71%

You are someone who values job advancement and leadership roles. You prefer work that receives recognition for the work you do and jobs that are looked up to by others in the company and your community.

Relationships
76%

You are someone who likes to provide a service to others. You prefer a work environment where you can work with your co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Support
86%

You are someone who values a company that stands behind their employees. You prefer a work environment where everyone is treated fairly and is being supported by the company.

Independence
71%

You are someone who likes to work on your own and make your own decisions. You prefer work that requires little supervision and are allowed to try out your own ideas.

FAQ


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