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National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists Endorses Requiring Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree for Clinical Nurse Specialists

Association Leadership Asserts Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree Will Help Clinical Nurse Specialists Meet Demands of an Evolving Health Care System

Washington, D.C. – The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) today announced its endorsement of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree as a requirement for entry into practice for clinical nurse specialists (CNS) by 2030.

Until now, the association has consistently supported either the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree or the DNP as adequate preparation for a CNS.

“In recognition of the increasingly complex needs of patients, the dramatic and ongoing changes in health care, and the pivotal role that the CNS plays in ensuring high quality, evidence-based, patient-centered care, NACNS has determined that the DNP will better prepare these nurses to meet the future demands of the evolving health care system,” said NACNS President Peggy Barksdale, MSN, RN, OCNS-C, CNS-BC.

NACNS’ new position also supports the recommendations of the 2010 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, and the 2009 Carnegie Foundation report, Educating Nurses: A Call for Radical Transformation, to increase the number of doctorally prepared nurses.

NACNS also agrees with the IOM report’s assertion that programs that allow seamless transition to higher degrees are essential to ensuring the nation has an adequate number of doctorally prepared nurses to meet future health care needs. Post-baccalaureate and post-master’s programs are the two academic routes to the DNP. The latter must use approved CNS competencies and education standards in the curriculum to ensure graduates are prepared for CNS practice.

NACNS developed core CNS competencies and Criteria for the Evaluation of Clinical Nurse Specialist Master’s, Practice Doctorate, and Post-Graduate Certificate Educational Programs to support and guide CNS educators in developing and evaluating their curricula.

While NACNS supports the DNP as the appropriate degree for future clinical practice as a CNS, the association supports allowing CNSs who pursued other graduate education to continue to practice without having to earn a DNP, retroactively, after 2030.

The NACNS position on the DNP was developed by a DNP Task Force, which included:

  • Chair: Carol Manchester, MSN, ACNS, BC-ADM, CDE, University of Minnesota Medical Center, Minnesota;
  • Melissa Craft, PhD, APRN-CNS, AOCN, University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma;
  • Ruth Lundquist, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN, University of Minnesota, Minnesota;
  • Rachel Moody, MSN, RN, CNS, Franciscan Alliance, Illinois;
  • Linda Scott, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois ;
  • Maureen Shekleton, PhD, FAAN (Staff Advisor), NACNS Consultant, Illinois; and
  • Patti Rager Zuzelo, EdD, RN, ACNS-BC, ANP-BC, CRNP, FAAN, Drexel University, Pennsylvania.

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