Clinical nurses have graduate-level training that can prepare them to make diagnostic decisions regarding their patients' health. Continue reading to learn more about academic requirements and career opportunities for clinical nurses.
Clinical nurses are advanced practice nurses who can provide their patients with direct or indirect care. Some specialize in a specific area, such as pediatrics, gerontology or diabetes management. More commonly called clinical nurse specialists, clinical nurses engage in clinical practice, clinical leadership and medical consultations, according to the California Board of Registered Nursing (www.rn.ca.gov). If you're already a registered nurse and are interested in furthering your career, pursuing master's-level training in clinical nursing could be for you.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurses should be detail-oriented, responsible and caring individuals (www.bls.gov). You should also be emotionally stable, so you can handle emergencies, the stress of the job and the reality of sometimes losing patients.
More than 2.7 million individuals worked as nurses in 2012, and the BLS projects that employment will increase by 19% between 2012 and 2022. Clinical nurse specialists are likely to be in the most demand in areas that are underserved, such as inner cities, because they can serve as primary care providers but are more affordable than doctors.
As of May 2013, the median annual salary for registered nurses was $66,220, according to the BLS. Where you live and your level of experience influence how much you make as a clinical nurse specialist. According to PayScale.com, the salary for clinical nurse specialists ranged from $59,873 to $103,596 as of April 2014.
To become a clinical nurse specialist, you must first have a bachelor's degree in nursing and be registered with a valid nursing license. Some schools admit individuals who earned an undergraduate degree in another field and are interested in transitioning into nursing, but these students have additional course requirements and additional clinical practicum sessions to complete. As a clinical nurse specialist, you can work in hospitals, home health care, nursing homes or doctors' offices, or you can open your own practice.
A master's degree is the minimum requirement for clinical nurse specialists, according to the BLS. Although master's degree programs in clinical nursing are the most common, you can also pursue a doctorate in nursing. With a doctorate in nursing, you can practice as a nurse and also teach clinical nursing at a university.
Through clinical nursing degree programs, you'll take courses that train you to cope with stress and loss, make decisions regarding your patients' health and diagnose illnesses. Some classes address health policy, management techniques and leadership in healthcare programs. Clinical experiences provide you with the opportunity to work in surgical, obstetric and psychiatric settings. This can help you determine your specialty area and preferred work environment. According to the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, although not all specializations require that you pass a certification exam, exams are available in areas such as adult health, pediatrics, gerontology and mental health.