And it’s a tough field. “Neuroscience is one of the most difficult specialties to master,” Every Nurse explained. “If you’re looking to become a neuroscience nurse, you should have a firm grasp on how the nervous system works and how it affects that rest of the body. You should also have a knack for technology, as much of the equipment used in neuroscience is a product of today’s modern technological advances.”
Still interested? Get an idea of whether you have what it takes and if the rewards are worth the sacrifices with this topline from Ansari and other neuroscience nursing experts.
Here’s the scoop on the job and the people most likely to excel at it:
What neuroscience nurses do
Simply summarized, “neuroscience nurses specialize in the human neurological system,” according to Registered Nursing. “Those interested in this field of nursing should have an interest in the functions of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. It is a difficult specialty in that neurological diseases and disorders can affect the other systems of the body.”
According to Fresh RN founder and nurse educator Kati Kleber, the job entails “working with the most critically ill patients” and knowing “why someone is in the neuro unit so you can give them the best care.”
Kleber listed a handful of top disease processes that land people in the neuro unit to help nurses know what type of cases they might be expected to cope with.
These included ischemic stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage, intraventricular hemorrhage, intracerebral hemorrhage, subdural hematoma and hydrocephalus. “There are a lot more that are very important but these are the most important ones to know like the back of your hand,” she said.
The specific nursing duties involve helping manage “the disease processes as well as assist in rehabilitation,” Registered Nursing added. A few of the possibilities include patients with spinal cord injuries, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease.
The hands-on work can be diverse, even within a single job description. Some of the duties might include performing physical assessments or neurological exams, assisting with mobility or physical rehab, medication management, and even wound care.
How much money they make
According to Payscale, the average hourly rate for a neurology nurse is $30.37, with total pay including bonuses, profit sharing and such equal to $50,000-$95,000. That information was computed April 7 and drawn from 67,766 salary profiles.
Glassdoor figures put the national average salary for a neuro nurse at $68,624 in the United States.
Where they work
According to Registered Nursing, the different care areas could include hospitals, stroke units, intensive care, pediatric nursing units, operating rooms, clinical education, rehabilitation facilities and elder care facilities.
“Those looking to become neuroscience nurses must first complete an accredited nursing program and obtain a nursing license,” Registered Nursing added. “They can choose to earn an ADN or BSN nursing degree. BSN nurses have a broader range of opportunities, as they can pursue supervisory roles as well as become clinical nurse educators.”
After completing an accredited nursing program, candidates must also become licensed in the state where they’ll work.
Those are just the most basic requirements, though. Some nurses may end up working at places where certification is also necessary. “For example, a nurse working on a stroke unit or intensive care unit may be required to have certification in stroke care,” Registered Nursing explained. “Sometimes certification is not required, although a neuroscience certified RN demonstrates competency, commitment, and professionalism in the specialty.”
The American Board of Neuroscience Nurses offers certification in both neuroscience nursing and stroke care nursing. To be eligible, nurses need a license and “direct or indirect nursing care” experience in a neuroscience or stroke care capacity for a two year period within the previous five years.
The board emphasized how this credential essentially “highlights the core knowledge you already have” and might support career growth for those who “treat patients with neurological trauma, chronic illnesses, tumors, infections, seizures, and other conditions in your daily practice.”
The certification does extend for five years, at which time a neuroscience nurse can sit for an exam or complete continuing education units to renew it.
Traits that help aspiring neuroscience nurses excel
Many personal traits can enhance a career in neuroscience nursing. Strong assessment skills are particularly valuable, Registered Nursing emphasized. “Moreover, healing and rehabilitation can sometimes take time, so a neuroscience nurse should have a lot of patience.”
You’d also need to be able to work in a fast-paced environment, with care situations that change constantly, Minority Nurse added. Neuroscience nurses also do best when they can adjust to the needs of the patient in front of them.
“Because of their patients’ care needs, neuroscience nurses have to walk a fine line between motivating patients to do the work they might need to do and understanding what limitations they have at that moment,” Minority Nurse noted.
From many years of personal experience, Ansari said that compassion is a must. “As a neuroscience nurse, one should have the capability to deal with critical situations by being empathetic toward the patient as well as being simultaneously alert and attentive to the details,” she said.
Within all the extra challenges, though, is a job that doesn’t get old. The diverse work “is one of the primary aspects of neuroscience nursing that I truly enjoy and find completely gratifying,” Ansari said. “The ability to learn something new amidst changing and challenging situations keeps me engaged, interested and motivated in my work every single day.”