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How Do Clinical Nurse Specialists Improve Health Care?

Five Facts to Know About Clinical Nurse Specialists

September 1-7 is the seventh annual National Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) recognition week. CNSs play a crucial role in health care and improving patient safety and quality of care.

“Now, more than ever, CNSs can and should be leaders in health care,” said NACNS Board President Peggy Barksdale, MSN, RN, OCNS-C, CNS-BC. “Every day across this country, clinical nurse specialists provide expertise and support to nurses caring for patients at the bedside, help drive practice changes throughout their organizations, and ensure the use of best practices and evidence-based care to achieve the best possible patient outcomes. If every health care setting employed CNSs, more of the care provided would be based on research and best practices, our health care system would be more efficient, and we would all be healthier.”

Here are five 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. There are more than 72,000 CNSs across the United States working in hospitals and other health care settings, including private practice, and clinics.
  3. The vast majority of CNSs (85 percent) work full-time and two-thirds (66 percent) work in hospital settings. Of those, more than two in five (44 percent) have responsibility across the entire hospital system.*
  4. As a group, CNSs spend most of their time providing direct patient care (25 percent), consulting with nurses, staff and others (20 percent), teaching nurses and staff (19 percent) and leading evidence-based practice projects (14 percent).*
  5. 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.

*Note: Data is based on NACNS’s 2014 Clinical Nurse Specialist Census findings. The Census was an online survey (conducted from June 1 to December 31, 2014) completed by 3,370 nurses who had completed or were enrolled in a CNS education program.


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