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Clinical Nurse vs. Staff Nurse: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Nurses play an important role in the medical field by providing care to patients. There are different types of nursing positions available, each with its own set of responsibilities. Two common nursing positions are that of a clinical nurse and a staff nurse. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between these two positions, and we provide additional information on other types of nursing careers.

What is a Clinical Nurse?

Clinical Nurses are responsible for the direct care of patients in a medical setting. They assess patients’ needs, develop care plans and administer treatments and medications. Clinical Nurses also educate patients and their families about their condition and how to manage their care at home. They work closely with other members of the healthcare team, such as physicians and surgeons, to ensure that each patient receives the best possible care. Clinical Nurses typically specialize in a particular area of medicine, such as oncology, pediatrics or cardiology.

What is a Staff Nurse?

Staff Nurses work in hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities to provide direct patient care. They assess patients’ health, administer medications and treatments, and educate patients and their families on how to manage their illnesses or injuries. Staff Nurses also keep detailed records of their patients’ health and progress, which they use to make recommendations to doctors and other healthcare professionals. They may specialize in a particular area of nursing, such as intensive care, cardiac care or oncology.

Clinical Nurse vs. Staff Nurse

Here are the main differences between a clinical nurse and a staff nurse.

Job Duties

Although both staff and clinical nurses have many of the same job duties, there are some differences between the two roles. For example, a staff nurse may be responsible for planning and conducting training programs for other nursing staff and healthcare professionals. They may also be in charge of evaluating and selecting new nursing staff members.

Clinical nurses may spend more time working directly with patients than staff nurses do. While all nurses must follow HIPAA regulations when handling patient information, clinical nurses may spend more time interacting with patients on a personal level to ensure they’re comfortable and that their treatment plan is effective.

Job Requirements

Clinical nurses typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing to enter the field. Some employers may prefer candidates with a master’s degree or higher. Clinical nurses must also be licensed as registered nurses (RNs) and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). To become RNs, candidates must complete an accredited nursing program and pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

Staff nurses only need to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing to enter the field. They must also be licensed as RNs and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Many staff nurses pursue additional certifications to specialize in a certain area of nursing, such as pediatrics or geriatrics. These certifications can help them advance their careers and earn higher salaries.

Work Environment

Clinical and staff nurses both work in hospitals, nursing homes or other medical facilities. However, clinical nurses may also work in private practices, doctor’s offices or outpatient clinics. They may travel to different locations for their shifts and spend time on the road between locations.

Staff nurses typically work in a single location, such as a hospital or nursing home. They may have more predictable schedules than clinical nurses because they don’t travel to multiple locations during their shift.


Both clinical nurses and staff nurses use a variety of skills in their jobs. These skills include critical thinking, problem solving, active listening, emotional intelligence and physical stamina. However, there are some differences in the specific skills each type of nurse uses on the job.

Clinical nurses typically have more experience than staff nurses and often work in specialized areas, such as intensive care or surgery. As a result, they may use more advanced skills, such as assessment and diagnosis, to provide care for their patients. They may also need to be proficient in using medical equipment, as they often work with more complex cases.

Staff nurses typically work in less specialized areas, such as general medicine or pediatrics. They use skills like patient education and health promotion to help prevent illness and promote wellness. They may also need to have strong time management skills to juggle multiple patients at one time.


The average salary for a clinical nurse is $86,470 per year, while the average salary for a staff nurse is $77,892 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the type of work you’re doing, your location and your experience level.


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