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What does a Clinical Specialist do?

By Keith Koons
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

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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Discussion Comments

By Ocelot60 — On Feb 03, 2015

@rundocuri- I think that the medical jobs available for your sister will depend on her past experience and nursing degree. If she will have her RN certificate and a doctorate degree, she will be well on her way to becoming a clinical specialist.

In addition to the experience that your sister already has, she might need to brush up on certain areas to get the job that she really wants. For example, if she has primarily worked with patients in the past, she might need more of a work history in the office part of a medical practice to prove that she is ready to become a clinical specialist.

By Rundocuri — On Feb 02, 2015

My sister is working towards a degree in nursing, and is trying to figure out the best future career path for her. She has already worked in leadership roles in the medical offices that she has been employed in, so I'm thinking that a position as a clinical specialist might be right for her.

As my sister finishes her nursing degree, what would she have to do to transition into a job as a clinical specialist? Will she need to gain more experience working as a registered nurse before she can find a job in this field?

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