Clinical Nurse: Career Profile, Job Outlook, and Education Requirements

Research what it takes to become a clinical nurse. Learn about education requirements, certification, job outlook, and potential salary to find out if this career is for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Clinical Nurse?

Clinical nurses, often referred to as clinical nurse specialists (CNS), are registered nurses who specialize in working with specific patient populations such as the elderly, specific health issues such as diabetes, or specific work environments. Regardless of specialization, clinical nurses are leaders among their fellow nursing staff. They work closely with other medical staff to interpret results, administer tests, and develop after-care plans for patients. They also have the authority to change treatment plans based on patient observation.

If this career appeals to you, refer to the table below for further information.

Education Required Master's degree
Licensure Nursing license certified through American Nurses Credentialing Center
Key Responsibilities Provide optimal patient care, conduct research in specialty field, work alongside doctors to develop treatment plans and evaluate the quality and efficiency of nursing
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% for all registered nurses*
Median Salary (2016) $82,600**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics **PayScale.com

What Will I Do As a Clinical Nurse?

Clinical nurses work in specific areas of healthcare. As a clinical nurse, you may focus on providing care to the elderly, children, infants, or adults. Or, you may treat patients in specific medical environments such as operating rooms, emergency rooms, and intensive care units. You may also care for patients with specific illnesses and diseases, including HIV/AIDs, diabetes, cancer, or heart disease.

No matter your specialty, you'll work with patients, their families, doctors, and other medical staff. You'll help develop after-care plans, administer tests, and interpret results with licensed doctors, physicians, and surgeons to assess and treat patients. You'll observe patients and sometimes change treatment to better fit their needs. The nursing staff will look up to you as a leader.

What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for registered nurses (RN) are expected to grow 16% between 2014 and 2024. Nurses with the highest levels of training and education, including clinical nurses, will be in the greatest demand. You can find work in clinics, hospitals, and research facilities. While registered nurses in general made a median annual salary of $60,202 in October 2016, according to PayScale.com, clinical nurse specialists earned a higher median annual salary of $82,600 according to PayScale.com.

What Should I Study?

According to O*Net Online, 88% of clinical nurses hold a master's degree (www.onetonline.org). During your graduate program training, you can expect to study different health related courses. These may include state and national healthcare policy, pathophysiology, pharmacology, acute illness assessment, and treatment theory. You'll likely need to complete a clinical requirement with a local hospital.

Also, you should anticipate continuing your education throughout your career. This will allow you to keep current with the latest trends and research.

What Certification Do I Need?

As a nurse, you'll need to pass certification exams. The American Nurses Credentialing Center supplies certifications for clinical nurses, registered nurses and numerous specialties. Also, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) offers examinations that can be used towards your licensing requirements (www.ncsbn.org). These exams are the NCLEX exams: the NCLEX-PN, for practical nurses, and the NCLEX-RN, or registered nurses.

The NCSBN has opportunities that allow you to combine two licenses from two different states. Currently, only 25 states offer this compact licensing.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Registered nurses (RNs) are very similar to clinical nurses, but they typically only require a bachelor's degree to work. Like clinical nurses, RNs can specialize in various fields, such as neonatal nursing, which involves caring for newborn infants, and cardiovascular nursing, where nurses care for patients with heart conditions. Physician assistants must hold master's degrees, like clinical nurses; they work directly with doctors and perform many of the same duties under their supervision.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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  • George Mason University

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    Popular programs at George Mason University:

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  • The George Washington University

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  • Capella University

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  • Sacred Heart University

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  • Queens University of Charlotte

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  • American University

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  • Grand Canyon University

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  • Colorado Technical University

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