Pros and Cons of Being a Clinical Assessment Nurse
A clinical assessment nurse is responsible for obtaining information from patients about their medical history and the extent of their health-related problems. Continue reading for the pros and cons of this career.
|Pros of a Clinical Assessment Nursing Career|
|Career opportunities are available all over the country*|
|High average annual salary*|
|Elevated job growth (nearly 2,687,310 jobs will be added from 2014-2024)*|
|Work in a profession that makes a difference in people's lives|
|Cons of a Clinical Assessment Nursing Career|
|Working with sick patients can be stressful*|
|Non-traditional work schedule (often night, weekend and holiday work required)*|
|Routine exposure to infectious diseases*|
|Rarely sit down on the job (most activities involve bending, stretching, walking and lifting)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job Description and Duties
As a clinical assessment nurse, you are involved in every aspect of the patient's care from the very beginning. You take the patient's vital signs, find out what problems they are experiencing and document their medical and medication history. After a treatment plan is developed, you follow the patient's progress and response to treatment and update his or her medical chart on a continual basis.
You work with other medical professionals who are involved with the patient and coordinate any revisions and changes in the patient's treatment plan. You are responsible for interpreting test results and any other data, such as their weight, vital signs and physical activity; this may result in modifying the patient's treatment plan. You are most often the contact person for educating and updating the patient and family about his or her progress.
Career Prospects and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014, hospitals were the highest employers for nurses, followed by physician's offices, home health care agencies, nursing home facilities and outpatient care centers.
The BLS reported a mean annual wage of $69,790 for nurses as of May 2014. The highest salaries are earned by nurses working in wholesale electronic markets at about $84,200 a year in 2014. During the same year, nurses who worked in hospitals earned around $71,640 a year. Job growth in the nursing field is projected to be faster than the average of any other occupation, 16% from 2014-2024. An aging population, the increased awareness of preventative care and advancements in medicinal technology all account for this increase.
What Are the Requirements?
The BLS outlines that you can become a registered nurse with a diploma, associate's degree, bachelor's degree or master's degree. Bachelor's degree programs include additional training in areas that are becoming more important in nursing such as critical thinking, leadership and communication. According to the BLS, earning a bachelor's degree will increase your career opportunities.
If you decide to pursue a master's degree, you can become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). APRNs work both independently and in collaboration with physicians and are able to prescribe medications in most states. Regulations for APRNs can be obtained from state nursing boards.
All states require registered nurses to be licensed. Licensing requires graduation from an approved nursing program and passage of the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Licensing requirements vary from state to state, and each state's nursing board can provide additional details.
According to the BLS, certification in specialized areas is optional, but some employers are requiring them. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers a clinical nursing specialty core exam in addition to eight specialty nursing certifications. Nursing specialties are characterized by the type of medicine that is practiced, such as cardiac emergency medicine or pediatric oncology.
In addition to your clinical skills, there are other qualities that may contribute to your success. As you are often the most frequent point of contact with the patient, the family and other health care team members, having good interpersonal and communication skills is essential. Being organized, detail-oriented and able to remain composed in stressful situations are also important.
Job Postings from Real Employers
All employers will require either an associate's or bachelor's degree and a nursing license to work as a clinical assessment nurse. Most medical facilities will be looking for previous experience and Basic Cardiac Life Support (BCLS) certification. Look at the following job ads from 2012, as they will show you what employers want in qualified applicants.
- A health care management agency in Connecticut is looking for a full-time home assessment nurse practitioner. Nursing practitioner certification from either the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) is required. One year of experience is also required. Having a geriatric or adult medicine specialty is a plus. A valid driver's license, familiarity with public and private insurance plans, medical coding and a willingness to travel to the patient's home are required.
- A hospital in California is recruiting a clinical nurse IV in enterostomal services. Requirements include a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Basic Life Support (BLS) certification and a current California nursing license. A minimum two years of experience is also required. Earning a Certified Wound and Ostomy Care Nurse (CWOCN) credential is expected within six months of your hire date. Preference is given to applicants with previous clinical skin and wound care experience.
- An OB clinical assessment nurse is needed for a health care company in Texas. The work schedule is from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. with a weekend shift rotation. An active Texas nursing license, along with a minimum of three years of maternal child health nursing, and two years of either case management or insurance experience are required.
How to Stand Out
According to the BLS, having at least a bachelor's degree will enhance your job prospects. Going on to earn specialized certifications will strengthen your credentials, as well as help you tailor your job search.
Joining professional nursing organizations such as the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the National Student Nurses Association (NSNA) will also improve your employment prospects. These organizations offer a variety of ways to connect you with career and credentialing resources, meet and network with others in the profession and get a heads up about current and future trends in nursing.
Other Career Paths
Licensed Practical Nurse
If earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing is not ideal, it's still possible to work as a nurse. As a licensed practical nurse degree (LPN), you will work under the direction of registered nurses and physicians providing basic nursing care. Certificate programs are available in community colleges and technical schools and take about one year to complete. You will also need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). The annual average salary is around $42,000, according to the BLS in 2011.
If you wish to assume more responsibility and increase your earning potential, you may want to consider becoming a nurse practitioner (NP). NPs diagnose and treat common ailments, perform physical exams and prescribe medications. Typically, licensed registered nurses are required to acquire clinical work experience before they enter the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) reports that the average salary for a nurse practitioner in 2011 was around $99,000.