Difference Between Nurse Practitioner & Clinical Nurse Specialist

Comparing Nurse Practitioners to Clinical Nurse Specialists

Nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists are both considered advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and work in hospitals or physician's offices providing direct care to their patients. However, although they both work in the same type of environments, the type of patient care they provide differs. Below are highlights of the similarities and differences between these patient-centered careers.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Nurse Practitioner Master's degree $100,910 35%
Clinical Nurse Specialist Master's degree $68,450 14%+

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Nurse Practitioners vs. Clinical Nurse Specialists

Nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists work in similar settings, but their purpose and job focus are different. While both careers involve caring for patients, the role of a nurse practitioner is focused on providing patients with comprehensive health services. In contrast, a clinical nurse specialist goes beyond providing patient care to focus on more of a leadership role. Nurse practitioners work as primary care providers, often working with long-time patients, to help them achieve a healthier lifestyle. A clinical nurse specialist collaborates with colleagues to streamline patient care and improve its effectiveness.

Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner can work in a variety of fields, including pediatric care, adult/geriatric care, or psychiatric and mental health. Their role is to directly interact with patients, assessing their health, identifying any chronic conditions, and providing patients with the necessary condition management information. As part of the care they provide, nurse practitioners can prescribe medications and order tests as needed. Nurse practitioners also provide patients with education on how to improve their health through a well-balanced diet or exercises. Because they work directly with patients, nurse practitioners are often compassionate individuals who enjoy helping others.

Job responsibilities of a nurse practitioner include:

  • Record and maintain patients' medical histories
  • Conduct annual physical exams for patients
  • Utilize various medical equipment for proper diagnosis and treatment
  • Establish care plans for patients

Clinical Nurse Specialist

A clinical nurse specialist may work in fields such as pediatric care or mental health and provide direct services to their patients. Outside of direct patient care, clinical nurse specialists also assume a leadership role within their department or practice. They serve as mentors and educational resources to fellow nurses. Clinical nurse specialists also find ways to conserve financial resources, while also maintaining a high level of patient care.

Job responsibilities of a clinical nurse specialist include:

  • Find ways to foster a team environment
  • Collaborate with other medical personnel on research
  • Determine where personnel and resources are best utilized
  • Create personalized care plans after patients receive a diagnosis

Related Careers

If you would like to become a nurse practitioner, a physician assistant job may also interest you, as both careers involve providing direct patient care. Those interested in a position as a clinical nurse specialist may want to consider becoming a social worker, as both jobs require caring for patients or clients and helping them live a healthier lifestyle.

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