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National Nursing Organizations Release Women’s Health Clinical Nurse Specialist Competencies

Women’s Health Competencies Developed to Improve Women’s Health

The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) and the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) today released the first-ever competencies for Women’s Heath Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS). The competencies were developed by the members of a joint task force comprised of representatives of AWHONN and NACNS. The Women’s Health CNS Competencies build on the National CNS Core Competencies and incorporate knowledge and scope of practice from standards of practice and evidence-based guidelines developed by AWHONN. They are entry-level competencies for all graduates of master’s, doctorate of nursing practice and postgraduate programs that prepare Women’s Health CNSs for certification and licensure.

“Women in the United States are experiencing rising rates of morbidity and mortality in childbirth, as well an increase in chronic health problems such as diabetes. These complex public health issues require nurses who can provide direct care, coordinate healthcare teams, improve processes and promote healthier outcomes for women across the lifespan,” said AWHONN’s Chief Executive Officer Lynn Erdman, MN, RN, FAAN. “AWHONN’s collaboration with NACNS in the development of these Women’s Health CNS Competencies is an essential step in fully realizing the impact the Women’s Health CNS can have to improve outcomes.”

The competencies are for Women’s Health CNSs who provide direct and indirect care to women across the lifespan, including:

  • reproductive and sexual health, starting in adolescence;
  • childbearing and lactation;
  • newborn and family adaptation;
  • perimenopausal, menopausal and post-menopausal health; and
  • healthy aging for women.

They describe seven areas of CNS competencies:

  • direct patient care;
  • consultation with other health care professionals;
  • systems leadership;
  • collaboration;
  • coaching patients, families and caregivers;
  • research; and
  • ethical decision making, moral agency and advocacy.

“We are pleased to have worked with AWHONN to develop this baseline set of competencies for the women’s health CNS,” said NACNS 2014 President Les Rodriguez, MSN, MPH, RN, ACNS-BC, APRN. “It’s important to note that we recognize that science and our knowledge about women’s health and health care continue to evolve. Over time, as research provides new evidence about women’s health nursing practice, we will update these competencies to reflect that science. ”

Representatives of the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health (NPWH), and the National Certification Corporation (NCC) informed the work of the joint task force and the validation panel.

The Women’s Health Clinical Nurse Specialist Competencies are available to download free of charge on the AWHONN and NACNS websites.



The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) is the foremost nursing authority that advances the health care of women and newborns through advocacy, research and the creation of high quality, evidence-based standards of care. AWHONN represents the interests of the more than 350,000 nurses working in women’s health, obstetric, and neonatal nursing nationwide.

AWHONN’s 24,000 members are clinicians, educators and health care executives focusing on improving healthcare needs of women and infants. A leader in professional development, AWHONN holds the distinction of receiving the Premier Program award by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for innovation and excellence in Continuing Nursing Education (CNE) three times.

Founded in 1969 as the Nurses Association of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the association became a separate nonprofit organization called the Association of Women’s Health and Neonatal Nurses in 1993.

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