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Arkansas State University

Become a Clinical Expert Nurse With an MSN Nurse Administrator Degree

When it comes to your health, you always want an expert on your side. Clinical expert nurses — also called clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) — are healthcare professionals with intensive knowledge and practice managing unique patient conditions.

According to the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS), CNSs “are trained in advanced physiology, pharmacology and physical assessment in addition to their particular areas of specialty. They can diagnose, treat, prescribe and bill like other APRNs as allowed by state regulations.”

These professionals have advanced degrees, such as a master’s or doctorate. They influence healthcare with their expertise in specialized areas, including acute or chronic illness, at-risk populations and primary care.

“CNSs are the glue in healthcare — organizational connectors using evidence and leveraging relationships to move projects forward that significantly impact patient and system outcomes,” notes the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).

With great responsibility should come appropriate compensation. reports that the average clinical nurse specialist earns around $113,814 annually and can earn up to $124,669 — depending on where they work or live. Different states have various salaries based on experience and performance.

The Responsibilities of a CNS

A typical CNS incurs the following responsibilities, according to the AACN:

  • Disseminates clinical expertise and education
  • Coordinates the development and implementation of care plans
  • Implements evidence-based practice (EBP)
  • Drives quality of care initiatives
  • Conducts and shares research
  • Fosters effective communication

CNSs must also stay up to date with current trends in their department of specialization to ensure they follow all protocols.

Some of these responsibilities are solely related to specialties within the CNS field, meaning that not all CNSs are required to uphold these tasks. There are multiple routes nurses can take within this specialization, such as patient/family, nurse/nursing practice and organization/system.

Those who decide to work in the patient/family department are responsible for providing clinical expertise throughout the entire process of care. On the other hand, those who choose to work in the organization/system department are primarily tasked with developing and implementing plans through research. The field is flexible for all types of nurses and provides multiple opportunities.

Improving Patient Outcomes

Specialists also improve patient outcomes thanks to several avenues. For example, the compassionate nature of the job. CNSs come across patients of all different backgrounds and walks of life, uniquely positioning them to connect with diverse individuals.

Nurses who decide to serve as a CNS are wholly dedicated to their patients. They work towards ensuring all individuals under their care are comfortable and respected. The role can be gratifying due to the relationships made between patient and nurse.

Patient outcomes also improve when CNSs work well alongside others in their organization. The AACN states, “CNSs engage and collaborate with a wide range of interprofessional team members, including physicians, NPs, physician assistants, nurses, case managers and much more. This collaboration enhances the patient and family experience and improves resource utilization and outcomes.”

Are You Ready to Uplevel Your Career?

One way to strengthen your skills as a nursing professional is to further develop your expertise and earn your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Those who enroll in the MSN – Nurse Administrator online program at Arkansas State University (A-State) have access to a curriculum that emphasizes chronic care, complex health systems and diverse populations.

This program allows students to assume leadership and collaborative roles in planning, providing and managing healthcare services. Students will work with patients and their families to develop strategies to maintain and improve health, as well as treat illnesses and chronic conditions.

For example, the Leadership in Health Professions course covers the basics of historical and contemporary leadership models in healthcare. In the Healthcare Issues and Policy course, students focus on the critical analysis of healthcare issues and policies that influence advanced nursing practice and the healthcare system. Depending on one’s schedule, coursework can be completed in as few as 12 months.

Each future nurse administrator will obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to enter roles such as a head nurse, assistant director of nursing, director of nursing, nursing services leader, nurse leader, nurse manager, nurse executive or patient care director. Graduates who wish to pursue a career as a clinical expert nurse may have to obtain additional certifications and licensure before working in this field.

Learn more about A-State’s MSN – Nurse Administrator online program.

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