CNS vs Nurse Practitioner

By | March 13, 2017

There are a lot of similarities between a clinical nurse specialist and a nurse practitioner, both fall under the categorization of Advanced Practice Nursing, are ranked amongst the highest paid careers in the field of nursing, play important roles in nursing as well as making significant contributions to patient care in medical environments, and finally, both are leaders in nursing practice credentialing and patient care. However, there also exist a few differences between a clinical nurse specialist and a nurse practitioner.

Differences in Clinical Nurse Specialist and Nurse Practitioner Job Duties

A clinical nurse specialist is at most times placed in charge of a nursing care department, either in a hospital or at a private clinic setting. This specialist has both the training and the skills to guide the staff nurses in education and optimizing patient care. Clinical nurse specialists may choose to run a private practice where they provide both nursing care and education to patients. However, a clinical nurse specialist cannot treat a patient in the absence of a physician, as they are not allowed to write out prescriptions.

A nurse practitioner on the other hand works under the indirect guardianship of doctors and use their training and skills to consult on nursing care. Even though they are allowed to write out prescriptions, they may not make an actual disease diagnosis. Like clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners may also choose to work as independent contractors (in private practice) where they can attend to patients by providing nursing care and treatment.

Differences in Clinical Nurse Specialist and Nurse Practitioner Practice Settings

The healthcare industry is quite broad, and there are a wide variety of practice settings in which both types of nurses may work. Among the most popular practices in the medical field is a private doctor’s office setting. In such a setting, a nurse practitioner may take over nursing care duties in the absence of the medical doctor for specific patients. A nurse practitioner may, in place of a doctor, attend to patients who require medication refills or routine checkups.

A clinical nurse specialist may be put in charge of case managing the entire doctor’s office. The clinical nurse specialist duties may include educating and hiring new nurses, as well as other office personnel, carrying out research, and also providing consultation to patients with medical queries. Both the clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners may also find work in home care, nursing homes and hospice inpatient settings.

Differences in Clinical Nurse Specialist and Nurse Practitioner Education

While both a clinical nurse specialist and a nurse practitioner requires at least a Masters of Science in nursing degree, the latter completes a post-master certificate training program, which also requires passing a national certification program administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, to open doors for studies in numerous other fields of medicine. On the other hand, a clinical nurse specialist focuses his/her attention on a particular specialty such as infectious disease nursing, cardiovascular nursing or perinatal nursing. A clinical nurse specialist will need almost the same amount of training as a nurse practitioner, but the training focuses more on educational-teaching skills, interdependencies and case management involved in patient care.