Clinical Nurse Specialists

Nursing Experts in Evidence-Based Care

A Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) is a registered nurse who has nursing training at the masters or doctoral level. As an advanced practice registered nurse, the CNS continues to perform many of the same functions that they would in basic nursing practice. The difference is that the CNS has a greater depth and breadth of knowledge, more training in analyzing data, and a wider range of skills across many specialties.

Services Provided

A Clinical Nurse Specialist provides direct clinical care to patients and may influence care outcomes by providing expert consultation and implementing improvements in the healthcare delivery system.

Key focus areas:

  • Diseases or subspecialties
  • Populations
  • Settings
  • Types of care
  • Types of problems

In addition, CNSs serve as:

  • Educators
  • Program coordinators
  • Leaders in healthcare change strategies
  • Managers of complex patient populations
Certification Requirements

The California Board of Registered Nursing must certify any registered nurse who carries the title of Clinical Nurse Specialist. Minimum requirements include:

  • Current licensing as a registered nurse
  • An advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing or other graduate-level program preparation for the CNS role, which is accredited by the CCNE or ACEN
  • Minimum 500 supervised clinical hours in a specialty area
  • Passing an examination from a national nursing association's credentialing branch, such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center
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