Press Room

RISE Up By Giving A Hand Up

Succession Planning To Advance The CNS Profession

Jan Powers, in her recent National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists President’s Letter titled “We Rise By Lifting Others,” stated:

“As CNSs, we must look to the future and work to improve the pipeline of qualified CNSs to fill positions of vital need. We must have an intentional focus on succession planning and simultaneously encourage younger nurses to explore and step up to the role of CNS.”

Five generations of nurses are now working together with the oldest generation reaching retirement. As a matter of fact, nearly 20% of CNSs will reach retirement age over the next five years. Succession planning is an important way to fill this potential retirement gap in the ranks of the about 89,000 CNSs in North America.

Succession planning is defined as the systematic process of recognizing and creating future leaders who ready and able to accept the roles and responsibilities of those leaving the workforce via retirement, resignation, or promotion. Succession planning is a future-oriented process.

In short, it’s about giving younger nurses a “hand up” by introducing them to the role of the CNS and encouraging them to pursue the career. It is primarily through this effort that we advance the CNS role and ensure it thrives well into the future.

The Big Question

Ask yourself this question:

Who will replace you when you retire or leave the organization?

To truly RISE UP as a profession we must lead others forward. This is where succession planning is so critical because our current CNS positions must pave the way for the next CNS to take our place. Below are some tips and ideas to think about as you begin a succession plan.

CNS Succession Planning Tips

1. Establish accountability

  • Agree who has the responsibility to make the succession decision. Establishing clear responsibility of organizational succession early on is key to avoiding confusion later and is important to ensure a CNS has input into the process.

2. Focus on learning, not just performance

  • Provide potential successors opportunities to experience the future role and be educated on responsibilities before the succession itself is decided and implemented. This is where mentoring is important.

3. Turn succession short-term by breaking down tasks

  • Succession planning is a journey with many steps. People tend to think better in the short-term so breaking down the succession process into smaller projects rather than trying to make a switch all at once has a better chance of success.

4. Build transparency with the scientific method

  • Be upfront about succession planning and use CNS data skills to measure a potential successor’s performance and leadership ability. Establish standards to measure the success of a transition and share this information. This not only makes the succession process cleaner, but it builds trust among coworkers and the organization generally.

Is 90,000 Enough?

There are about 89,000 CNSs in North America and it is not nearly enough. The pandemic is swallowing resources while the online job boards scream for more CNSs. Our goal should be to retain and add more CNS to the workforce every year. We can do this with mentoring, succession planning, advising younger nurses, speaking at nursing programs among may other things. In sum, by giving a hand up to younger nurses to become CNSs we ensure the continuity of our profession and truly “RISE By Lifting Others.”