What is a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists states that a clinical nurse specialist is an RN who focuses on diagnosing and treating specific illnesses. Clinical Nurse Specialists will work in the areas of patients, administration or nurse management. Clinical Nurse Specialists will need a bachelor’s degree and active RN license to gain legal employment. As illustrated below, Clinical Nurse Specialists may perform very contradictory duties.

Clinical Nurse Specialist – Labor and Delivery

These Clinical Nurse Specialists use their advanced knowledge and skills of labor and delivery to provide the highest levels of clinical competence and professional expertise. They engage in collaboration, consultation, education and mentoring within labor and delivery departments. Every day, they directly interact with patients and families to promote the health and well-being of mothers and babies. They use holistic perspectives and advanced nursing knowledge to deal with obstetrical and gynecological problems and conditions. They maintain clinical competence within their specialty focus in order to improve their health management, change leadership and evidence-based practices.

Nurse Manager

Nurse managers are responsible for professional development, so they mentor the training and education of assigned nurses. They share specialty practice knowledge through formal educational activities and informal one-on-one sessions. They are members of interdisciplinary teams who participate in the planning and delivery of professional development programs. They work with nurse educators to support the hiring, orientation and skill cultivation of employees. They conduct competency assessments of current employees. Nurse managers provide expert clinical consultations and recommendations to health care providers and interdisciplinary peers. They initiate consultations in order to obtain resources that facilitate patients’ progress toward achieving medical goals and outcomes.

Clinical Administrator

Clinical nurse administrators are accountable for the performance, provision and quality of nursing services. They strategically ensure optimal schedules, employee workloads and efficient patient care. They strive to reach the highest levels of staff, patient and provider satisfaction. Clinical nurse administrators facilitate cooperative partnerships with other departments, organizational teams and professional groups. They maintain a constant focus on patient safety, staff performance and organizational metrics. Clinical nurse administrators may create systems and maintain standards for care delivery and evaluation. They often work with care delivery systems to promote evidence-based practices, support management goals and reach productivity targets.

Process Improvement Nurse

Some Clinical Nurse Specialists focus only on training staff, discovering new findings and implementing new solutions. Process improvement nurses may analyze research findings and medical evidence for potential applications to clinical areas, practices and policies. They may assess systems barriers and facilitators to the adoption of evidence-based practices. They may design effective trial-and-error programs that allow hospitals to safely experiment with alternatives to find the best methods. Their systems leadership responsibilities will involve the facilitation of enterprise-wide systems. They ensure clinically competent care through staff education, role modeling, team building, quality monitoring and system level assessments.

Related Resource: What is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

Clinical Nurse Specialists may also focus on telemetry units, health care systems, patient safety outcomes and critical care services, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They may be assigned to neuro, cardio, pediatric, intensive care and acute surgery departments.