The training students receive at most undergraduate nursing schools prepares them to work in clinical nursing. This type of nursing is the hands-on care that most people associate with the nursing profession. Clinical nursing is the actual practice of medically treating patients, and clinical nurses are trained at all levels, including licensed practical nurses and registered nurses, as well as advanced practice nurses with graduate degrees. Clinical nurses are found in many different types of health care settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, doctor’s offices, and community mental health centers.
When you graduate from a nursing program and pass the test to become licensed, you are qualified to work as a clinical nurse. Some settings require more practice within nursing, and managers may want nurses with experience to work there. Other situations involve advanced certification and training.
A clinical nurse specialist is a nurse who has an advanced degree, such as a master’s or doctoral degree, in the field of nursing. Clinical nurse specialists support the work of nurses in the clinical setting and act as a resource and guide for their area of practice. They may conduct research, study the outcomes of other investigations, and educate the staff about findings to improve patient care in their work environment.
Many clinical nurse specialists focus on particular areas of care and are employed for one unit or a section of a health care center. For example, a clinical nurse specialist working in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) may review standards of practice for the care of babies in her hospital of employment and research methods and new strategies that will further keep babies healthy. She may then teach the staff the new standards and work to implement them in the facility’s own job model.
Nursing provides plenty of variety when it comes to deciding where you want to work. Through a nursing program, you will be trained to work as a clinical nurse, and if you enjoy it, you also have the option to move ahead into specialized clinical nursing to further practice the skills you have learned.