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How to Become a Clinical Nursing Specialist

Clinical Nursing Specialists are one of the four types of advanced practice nurses in the the nursing field.  These specialists are usually just that, nurses trained to provide their patients with highly specialized care in fields such as psychiatric mental health, pediatrics, or pain management.  They often provide primary care, including preventative measures, diagnoses, and treatment, to many patients every day.  Clinical Nursing Specialists also play a role as consultants, educators, and evaluators for other non-specialized nurses and staff providing care. These highly trained nurses command a higher salary and require more education than many other nursing careers.  

To become a Clinical Nursing Specialist, you'll first need a current U.S. registered nurse licence.  You'll also need a graduate degree (master's or doctorate) in an advanced nursing practice specialty program from an accredited university or college as well as a formal didactic and clinical advanced practice program.  Your program will need a total of at least 500 clinical hours as part of your graduate level education.  According to the U.S. News & World Report rankings in 2007, the University of Washington, University of California - San Francisco, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University provide the best Clinical Nursing Specialist graduate programs in the nation.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, a Clinical Nurse Specialist can make between $65,000 - $110,000 annually on average.  These nurses are in high demand because of their high level of specialized knowledge and proven track record of improving care and various types of facilities, and demand is expected to continue to grow in the coming years.  

Clinical Nursing Specialists work in a wide variety of health care settings across the nation.  They are sought after by both general and specialized hospitals, not-for-profit and organizationally run hospitals.  They also participate in outreach programs sponsored by non-profit and government organizations.  As a clinical nursing specialist, you may be in especially high demand in areas that are under served by their current medical care providers such as inner city neighborhoods and rural areas of the country.  This is largely because more and more often such advanced nurses can and do provide primary care for many patients.

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