What Is a Neuroscience Nurse?

Gayle Morris, MSN
Updated October 26, 2022
Neuroscience nursing is a rewarding career caring for patients who have a neurological injury or illness. These important steps to becoming a neuroscience nurse.
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Nurses are the backbone of the U.S. healthcare system, providing physical, emotional, and mental healthcare to patients and their families.

Neuroscience nurses are registered nurses (RNs) skilled in providing care and preventive services to people from birth to the elderly with conditions or injuries affecting their brain or nervous system.

Discover more about neuroscience nursing, what they do, where they work, and how to become one.

How Long to Become

2-4 years

Job Outlook

6% growth from 2021-2031

Average Annual Salary

$73,360 as of September 2022

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What Does a Neuroscience Nurse Do?

adn or bsn required
Certification Optional

Neuroscience nurses work with patients with a variety of neurological diagnoses. There are 400 neurological conditions, including dementia, stroke, seizure, spinal cord injury, head injury, and multiple sclerosis.

Neuroscience is one of the most specialized areas of nursing: healthcare professionals need a working understanding of one of the most complex systems in the body. Injury and illness can have devastating results for the patient, from paralysis to psychosis.

Nurses must use their knowledge of how the nervous system functions while caring for patients, how it integrates with the rest of the body, and have a firm grasp on the technological advances that help diagnose and care for patients with neurological dysfunction.

closeup of nurse hands on computer keyboard

JGI/Tom Grill / Getty Images

Key Responsibilities

  • Neurological assessment
  • Compassionate communication
  • Patient education to understand a complex condition
  • Assist with patient’s physical rehabilitation
  • Patient preparation for procedures and wound care

Career Traits

  • Work under pressure
  • Physically and emotionally challenging
  • Strong work ethic
  • Aptitude for change
  • Strong assessment skills in a fast-paced environment

Where Do Neuroscience Nurses Work?

Neuroscience nurses frequently work in operating rooms, rehabilitation clinics, inpatient hospital units, residential care facilities, and intensive care units. These nurses must be supportive, tolerant, and patient to cope with patients and families under extraordinary stress.

Neuroscience nurses may work with critically ill patients from admittance through rehabilitation after an injury or illness. They assess, diagnose, and discuss treatment plans with collaborating physicians. They also monitor a patient’s neurological activity and provide pre-and post-operative care.

How to Become a Neuroscience Nurse

Becoming a neuroscience nurse includes graduating with an accredited associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program. After graduation, nurses must pass the NCLEX to receive their state RN licensure. Note that nursing licensure requirements vary by state.

These nurses typically work in neuroscience or stroke care. They work in private neurology practices, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers and clinics. They can get an optional certification in the field. Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) can also specialize in neuroscience nursing.

The American Board of Neuroscience Nursing (ABNN) offers the Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse (CNRN) and Stroke Certified Registered Nurse (SCRN) certification examinations. The certification demonstrates compliance with quality standards in the industry and verifies a nurse’s knowledge.

To take either exam, an RN must have an active license and at least one year of full-time experience in direct or indirect neuroscience care within the past three years.

Neurology Nursing vs. Neurosurgery Nursing

Neuroscience nurses care for patients with neurological injuries or conditions. Neurosurgical patients may include those who have had craniotomies, spinal surgeries, or tumor resections. Patients may transition from neurosurgery to neurology after surgery.

Neurology Nursing

  • Common conditions include stroke, multiple sclerosis, Guillain Barre, seizure, and bacterial meningitis.
  • Neurology nurses may work in hospitals, private neurology offices, or outpatient clinics.
  • Neurology nurses assess and treat patients, provide medication administration, and assist with procedures.
  • Neurology nurses must be patient, have strong communication skills, and assist with mobility.

Neurosurgical Nursing

  • Common conditions include craniotomies, tumor resection, spinal surgery, and arteriovenous malformations.
  • Neurosurgical nurses work in an inpatient hospital setting, including the operating room.
  • Neurosurgical nurses provide pre-and post-operative care, monitor a patient’s neurological status, and may help with surgical procedures.
  • Neurosurgical nurses must work under pressure in a fast-paced environment, have strong communication skills, and be a lifelong learner.

How Much Do Neuroscience Nurses Make?

Neuroscience nurses are highly skilled healthcare professionals. According to Payscale, the average annual salary for a neuroscience nurse is $73,360 as of October 2022.

Several factors influence a neuroscience nurse’s salary. These include geographical location, practice setting, experience, and certification. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects nursing jobs to grow 6% from 2021-2031, which is average for all occupations.

National estimates show the highest percentage of nurses work in general medical and surgical hospitals, followed by outpatient clinics.

Frequently Asked Questions about Neuroscience Nurses

question-mark-circleWhat is a neurologist nurse called?

A nurse who works with neurology patients is called a neuroscience nurse, neural nurse, or neurosurgical nurse. Neuroscience nurses may also be called rehabilitation nurses, stroke nurses, or head injury nurses depending on their patient population.

question-mark-circleIs neuro-nursing stressful?

Neuro-nursing can be fast-paced and stressful, depending on the environment. The status of patients with bacterial meningitis or a traumatic brain injury can change rapidly. Patients with a neurological injury or condition may have personality alterations or difficulty communicating. Nurses must be supportive and patient to care for these individuals.

question-mark-circleWhat is neurosurgery nursing?

Neurosurgical procedures are those used to treat individuals with a neurological injury or illness, such as a craniotomy or brain tumor removal, spinal cord decompression after an injury, or shunt placement for children with hydrocephalus. The procedures can be challenging and stressful for the patient and the family.

question-mark-circleWhat do neuroscience nurses do?

Neuroscience nurses are responsible for the assessment, diagnosis, and intervention of patients with a neurological injury or illness. They monitor the patient’s neurological status, recommend interventions, administer medications, and assist with retraining the individual to return to their activities of daily living.

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