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What is a clinical nurse specialist? How can I become one in the UK?

A nursing staff member standing outside a patient's treatment room.

How to become a clinical nurse specialist in the UK: A Guide

The healthcare industry in the UK provides job opportunities for individuals who desire to offer care and positively influence the lives of others. Clinical nurse specialists have been a vital part of the healthcare industry in the UK, where they provide professional, quality, and cost-effective specialty care. Over the decades, this profession has become widely accepted in the healthcare system of the UK as a standardised, licensed, and fully regulated healthcare occupation. 

If you are interested in pursuing a healthcare profession in the UK that can bring about change and assist patients, then becoming a clinical nurse specialist is the best option for you. This article will explain what a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is, their roles and responsibilities, why to consult them, and how to become one in the UK. 

What is a clinical nurse specialist? 

A clinical nurse specialist is an advanced practise registered nurse with a master's or doctoral degree who provides advanced patient care to deal with complex, specific problems in hospitals, clinics, and private practice. They perform procedures, collaborate with and manage large medical teams, and treat ailments and diseases. Clinical nurse specialists hold more advanced qualifications than other nurses, allowing them to perform more complex and technically demanding tasks. Their roles often extend to other areas, like healthcare management and research. They usually specialise in areas of practise such as cardiology, radiology, endocrinology, or gerontology. 

What does a clinical nurse specialist do? 

Conducting tests, making diagnoses, administering basic treatments, and prescribing drugs to patients are some of the responsibilities a clinical nurse specialist is authorised to undertake. Apart from this, they also provide expertise and support to a team of nurses. They often help in creating practice changes within an organisation and plans that ensure the group is using best practices and providing evidence-based care. 

The primary role of a clinical nurse specialist includes: 

1. Expert clinician 

2. Educator 

3. Researcher 

4. Consultant 

They are trained to identify shortcomings or gaps in healthcare. Moreover, they provide consultant services, monitor care, design and implement interventions, evaluate the general delivery of care, and communicate with patients and their families. 

How does a clinical nurse specialist help patients and their families? 

There are various services clinical nurse specialists provide to patients and their families, including: 

1. Ensure that people close to patients have access to information and advice about their diagnosis and treatment. 

2. Helping patients understand large amounts of unfamiliar information and providing support in decision-making about care, treatment, and follow-up arrangements. 

3. Clinical nurse specialists provide practical and emotional support to patients and their families. 

4. Offer patients access to clinical advice and discuss any concerns you may have about treatments, investigations, surgery, recovery, and life after treatment. 

5. Advocate on behalf of patients at the MDT meeting, where investigations are discussed and recommendations are made about patients' treatment and care plans. 

6. Help patients connect with different services, both within the hospital and the community, to support their care needs. 

7. Guide patients through the complex system, help them access benefits, finances, grants, free prescriptions, and support their family issues. 

8. Helps to develop care plans tailored to the needs of each patient after obtaining their diagnosis. 

How does a clinical nurse specialist contribute to research? 

The contributions of a clinical nurse specialist in research include: 

1. Helps reduce hospital costs 

2. Improving management practices 

3. Reducing medical complications during in-patient stays 

4. Reducing the frequency of ER visits 

5. Reducing the length of hospital stays 

What makes a clinical nurse specialist important? 

Clinical nurse specialists serve as educators, mentors, and advocates within the nursing profession. They have clinical expertise in their field and possess solid clinical abilities. Moreover, they help to promote and encourage the process of change. They use evidence-based practice to train other nurses and assist in developing strategies to reduce the costs of providing care. Furthermore, they can share their expertise and observations in inpatient treatment, apply them to research policies, and improve the quality of care. 

How do I become a clinical nurse specialist in the UK? 

Clinical nurse specialists choose a specialisation early and gain qualifications and experience which help them move upwards in the salary band. The following is a step-by-step guide to becoming a clinical nurse specialist in the UK. 

1. Decide whether it is the right career choice for you: 

It is important to check whether the career path you are choosing suits your goals and skills. As a clinical nurse specialist, you should have the natural drive to study science and the desire to understand their specialties, while also having the empathy and emotional intelligence to help patients. It is a physically demanding job, and if you enjoy fast-paced working environments and actively solving problems in response to difficult situations, becoming a specialist nurse could be a great career path for you. 

2. Get an undergraduate nursing degree: 

To become a clinical nurse specialist, you must first pursue an undergraduate degree, as it is the first step in providing you with the fundamental knowledge to administer care. Use this opportunity to acquire medical knowledge and decide which specialisation you would like to pursue. Seek guidance from your peers and superiors on how to become a clinical nursing specialist. 

3. Becoming a registered nurse: 

After completing your degrees, register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). This enables you to work as a nurse and locate relevant nursing jobs. You cannot practise nursing unless you register with the council and choose to specialise in adult, infant, mental health, or learning disability nursing. The licensure examination evaluates both written and practical knowledge to ensure that candidates can provide appropriate care to patients. 

4. Get experience in a healthcare setting: 

Use your qualification to gain valuable experience as a nurse in a healthcare setting in the UK or another medical role. Most postgraduate qualification programmes to become a specialist nurse have a minimum healthcare experience requirement. So it is advisable to start gaining hands-on experience as much as possible. Later on, these hands-on experiences will help in improving skills. 

5. Earn postgraduate qualifications in your specialism: 

In order to fully understand your specialty's technical knowledge, you should achieve a master's or a doctorate. Here, you will specialise in a particular field and study the procedure in detail. With the advanced degree, you will be able to provide better-quality care and apply for specialist nurse jobs in the UK. 

6. Apply to specialist nurse roles: 

Once you're a registered nurse and have advanced qualifications in your specialism, you can apply for specialist nurse jobs in the UK. You can apply in hospitals, private practices, and research groups in the UK. Make sure to prepare a professional CV that highlights your skills and experiences to secure the best jobs. 

If you are looking for an agency nurse job in the UK with the highest pay rates, connect with us. Nurses Group is a leading nursing staffing agency in the UK, offering a wide variety of specialised nursing jobs.

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