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Who Are Clinical Nurse Specialists?

10 Facts to Know About Clinical Nurse Specialists and How They Improve Health Care

September 1-7 is the sixth annual National Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) recognition week. While CNSs play a crucial role in health care and improving patient safety and quality of care, few people know who these nurses are. Here are 10 important facts to know about the CNS role in health care.

  1. Clinical Nurse Specialists are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and have education and training in advanced nursing care, physiology, pharmacology and physical assessment.
  2. The CNS role was established at the end of World War II.
  3. There are more than 72,000 CNSs across the United States. Canada and other countries are also utilizing this important nursing role.
  4. CNSs work in hospitals and other health care settings, including private practice, and clinics.
  5. CNSs’ work in three “areas of influence,” providing diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing management of patients; sharing their expertise and supporting other nurses caring for patients at the bedside; and helping improve care by ensuring the use of best practices and evidence-based care to ensure the best possible patient care.
  6. CNSs are health care experts who specialize in particular areas of health care, such as pediatrics, diabetes care, psychiatry, or pain management.
  7. Clinical nurse specialists have the expertise necessary to care for the growing number of people who have multiple serious conditions, mostly people who are aging and developing conditions requiring specialized care, including heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and high cholesterol.
  8. CNSs work with other health care professionals and leaders in health care organizations to evaluate, design and implement proven systems, practices and policies to improve health care delivery.
  9. CNSs are leaders in nursing, and their skills and expertise are crucial to improving care delivery and safety. For instance, CNSs develop and implement interventions that: reduce the incidence of complications in hospitalized patients, which reduces hospital costs and length of stays; increase patient satisfaction with the care they receive; reduce hospital readmissions; and much more.
  10. CNSs can make a bigger difference in improving health care if more people understand the value, expertise and skills clinical nurse specialists bring to health care practice.

The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) established National CNS Recognition Week in 2009 to commemorate the contributions of Hildegard Peplau to nursing and health care. Born September 1, 1909, Dr. Peplau was a prominent nursing theorist whose landmark book, Interpersonal Relations in Nursing, emphasized the nurse-client relationship as the foundation for nursing practice and today serves as the basis of the CNS role in health care.

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