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National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists Endorses Specialty Education and Certification for Clinical Nurse Specialists

Recommendations Address Educational Strategies to Ensure Clinical Nurse Specialists’ Specialty Practice Competencies

Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who ensure high quality nursing care that is evidence-based and promotes patient safety, while improving patient outcomes and lowering health care costs. They play this important role across a variety of specialties based on patient population, setting, condition or type of care.

The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS), the only national association representing CNSs regardless of specialty, today released a position statement that recommends that CNSs achieve documented competency in their specialties through certification and graduate nursing education.

This new position statement expands on the APRN Consensus Model, which NACNS has also endorsed. It suggests strategies to ensure CNSs achieve specialty competencies, and provides recommendations for graduate education to ensure specialty content in CNSs education, including:

  • Formalized master’s-level study that may include academic course work, approved advanced continuing education course work or other structured learning experience (such as a fellowship or mentorship).
  • Requiring CNS students with master’s degrees to have achieved both population and specialty competencies upon entering a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program. The program should include adequate clinical practice hours so students can continue to develop expertise in their specialties.
  • Requiring CNS students with BSNs who are pursuing DNPs to develop both population and specialty competencies through a curriculum that includes content and clinical practice hours and includes content relevant to specific populations and specialties.
  • Requiring CNS students with BSNs who are pursuing PhDs to take master’s level courses that include the requirements for CNS practice as specified in the APRN Consensus Model. Students knowledge of their specialty should be enhanced by coursework related to their dissertation topic.

NACNS also recommends requiring documentation proving that a CNS has achieved competency in his or her specialty, regardless of academic preparation, such as an academic transcript, an earned certificate or a portfolio.

“Specialty practice is the hallmark of the CNS role,” said Carol Manchester, MSN, ACNS, BC- ADM, CDE, President of NACNS. “As such, it is important that we ensure that all CNSs have achieved competency in their areas of specialty so that they are best able to fulfill their roles guiding nursing practice to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs.”

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