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What Does a Clinical Specialist Do?

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  • Written By: Keith Koons
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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As a clinical specialist, a person must be extremely skilled at giving care as well as being a critical thinker, strong leader, teacher, and decision-maker. Many clinical specialists act in a primary care provider capacity, being the one to examine, diagnose, and prescribe a course of action for their patients. A clinical specialist may work closely with patients or be required to take on more of a managerial and planning role. For example, developing and implementing a new patient treatment center or program would be within the scope of this profession. They may also act as teachers for incoming nurses aspiring to become clinical specialists.

A clinical specialist is an advanced practice nurse. Also called a clinical nurse specialist (CNS), a person holding this position has expertise in select types of diseases or particular areas of medicine. In addition to their role as a nurse, they usually perform or assist with managerial duties, training seminars, and research related within their medical areas of focus. A clinical specialist is required to hold a registered nursing (RN) degree and usually a master’s level degree in nursing as well. Some clinical specialist positions even require a doctorate degree.

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The nature of specialization with this type of career means that there is a wide range of job duties among different clinical specialist jobs. Since those in this role may specialize in mental health, cardiology and oncology, there are many opportunities for variation within this career. Traditional hospitals and clinics are one type of setting, but there is also a need for clinical specialists in institutions such as school systems and governmental facilities.

This type of advanced practice nurse is a position that is in high demand; the need for health care professionals on all levels makes the job outlook for the clinical specialist role positive. Those in this role do require a higher level of education and expertise than the more common RN position, but the options for lateral and upward mobility within this career are typically better. The salary for a career in this field can range anywhere from $50,000 to over $100,000 US Dollar (USD), depending on the facility and region of employment as well as the work experience of the individual. The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) oversees this field.

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