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Clinical Nurse Specialist Named Top Job; Fisher Program Strong and Growing

December 12, 2013 and PayScale recently published a list of the top 100 careers with big growth projections over the next decade, listing the Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) as the 2nd top job on the list. And the CNS track at the College’s Wegmans School of Nursing proves that the interest in the field is certainly there, and growing.

The list includes information such as median pay, top pay, 10-year job growth, and a quality of life survey, and the numbers tied to a career as a CNS are promising. The median pay is $86,500, with the top pay listed at $126,000. The field also shows a projected 26% job growth rate between 2010-2020. 

Tara Sacco

Tara Sacco

Tara Sacco, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Wegmans School of Nursing and a CNS graduate of Fisher, said the CNS role is an advanced practice nursing role, but much different than the role of a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, or nurse midwife.

“We work in the three spheres of influence: patient/family, nurse/nursing practice, system/organization. The role gives us an opportunity to truly spend time in each sphere every day. The other nursing roles tend to be more patient-care focused. We provide direct care, work with nursing staff, and implement change. It's an educational role for the patients and nurses; I've had colleagues describe it as being ‘the nurse's nurse,’” said Sacco.

Mentoring is a large part of the CNS role as well. Sacco said a CNS’s biggest impact is in research and evidence-based practice, because a CNS translates the most current evidence to the bedside in education and program planning, policy development, procedure implementation, and guideline development.

“By doing so, we improve outcomes for the patients and nursing staff. For instance, the work of the CNS has decreased pressure ulcer rates, bloodstream infections, medication errors, and increased retention of highly skilled nurses,” she added.

The work of a CNS positively affects a system fiscally as well. Sacco said with every error that is prevented by the work of an interdisciplinary team that includes a CNS, the hospitals and outpatient facilities save money.

Fisher’s CNS track in the M.S. in Advanced Practice Nursing Program currently has 22 students enrolled. Dr. Cynthia McCloskey, Director of the Graduate Programs in Advanced Practice Nursing, attributes the program’s growth to educational requirements and heightened awareness of CNSs.

“Professor Tara Sacco is a skilled CNS who is an excellent role model at Strong Memorial Hospital. That large institution is currently hiring more CNSs to meet the needs of their complex inpatient populations who require patient and family-centered care. CNSs are essential to the implementation of that model of care. We have had several nurses from Strong come to our program because of Tara's role-modeling,” she said.

In addition, McCloskey said the title protection that CNSs achieved in New York State in September now requires that nurses who are currently acting as a CNS actually obtain the required education to work in that the role.  Prior to this year, institutions could label individuals who were leaders and were clinically skilled to leadership roles without the requisite education to assist them. 

McCloskey also said that Rochester General Hospital, that currently uses CNSs, may also be inclined to hire more now that title protection is in place.

Sacco thinks people are attracted to becoming a CNS because the role offers a lot of variety in day-to-day settings.

“We work with multidisciplinary teams to improve care. We are able to be transformational leaders and impact care at the bedside by using the evidence to improve patient outcomes. There's a lot of innovation in the role—new products, developing new ways of doing things, being on the cutting-edge. It is very rewarding to be a mentor and help a nurse of any skill level improve and develop professionally,” she said.

The list of top 10 jobs also included biomedical engineer, software architect, general surgeon, management consultant, petroleum geologist, software developer, IT configuration manager, clinical research associate, and reservoir engineer.