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How Do Clinical Nurse Specialists Build a Culture of Safety?

Five Facts to Know in Honor of CNS Recognition Week

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

“CNS Recognition Week is an important time for clinical nurse specialists to help educate our colleagues and patients about the central role we play in health care and keeping patients safe,” said Sharon Horner, PhD, RN, MC-CNS, FAAN, president of the 2016-2017 NACNS Board of Directors. “This week we take extra pride in our leadership role and celebrate the contributions we are making to improving health and health care in our nation. I want to take a moment to thank all my CNS colleagues for the work they do every day to ensure evidence-based care, improve patient safety and provide expertise and support to nurses working at the bedside.”

Here are five important facts to know about how CNSs build a culture of safety.

  1. CNSs are advanced practice registered nurses and hold graduate degrees. A national survey of CNSs revealed that three in five (60 percent) report that a master of science degree in nursing is the highest degree they hold. Roughly 13 percent hold doctorates (either PhDs or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees). CNSs have additional education and training in advanced nursing care, physiology, pharmacology and physical assessment.
  2. CNSs are expert clinicians in a specialized area of nursing practice. Their specialty may be identified in terms of a population (ex. pediatrics), a setting (ex. emergency dept.), a disease or medical subspecialty (ex. Diabetes), type of care (ex. psychiatric), or type of problem (ex. pain). While working within a specialty, CNSs can provide direct patient care and/or lead initiatives to improve care and clinical outcomes, and reduce costs.
  3. CNSs are crucial to helping our health care system address complicated and emerging health care issues – like the emergence of the Zika virus and rising concerns about opioid misuse and abuse. These issues demand the highest level of care coordination and a deep knowledge of health care and nursing research to best help the health care team provide efficient, effective care.
  4. According to the 2014 CNS Census, 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 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.

There are more than 72,000 CNSs across the United States working in hospitals and other health care settings.

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