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A website for young nurses and the young at heart in Aotearoa

Clinical Nurse Specialist

Marilyn Gibson

I am a Clinical Nurse Specialist working in NICU in Wellington Hospital. I have been a neonatal nurse for 35 years. As you can imagine, technology over this time has seen a huge difference in neonatal care. The use of surfactant, CPAP and new ventilators have seen a difference in the survival rate of the extreme preterm baby. I began as a shift coordinator 20 years ago and have been a Clinical Nurse Specialist for 10 years. The role is very busy and always interesting. Our NICU is a 45 bed level 3 unit caring for babies from 23 weeks gestation. We also have a large number of surgical babies. Our unit caters for a wide geographical area so many families will be away from home for long periods.

The clinical nurse specialist needs to be an expert in  clinical skills. Staff support, writing and maintaining evidence based practice policies and protocols, maintaining high standards, palliative care and education are all part of the role. I assist staff with complex care babies and organise support to enable parents to manage their baby at home - often needing oxygen and tube feeds. The clinical nurse specialist also lectures at study days, performs infant and staff vaccinations and assists clinically - a jack of all trades. Certainly this role is never boring with each day bringing new challenges. There is nothing as rewarding as seeing our wee babies being discharged home- often after a stay of many months..

My advice would be to get a range of experiences over different areas before deciding which area to specialise in. Then do the appropriate advanced papers. I have RN, BN, Midwifery, Advanced diploma of nursing and post graduate certificate in advanced neonatal nursing. A Masters is now a requirement for most senior nursing positions.