Year: 2024

NACNS’ Takeaways from ANA Hill Day 2024: Urging Congress to Improve Nursing Work Environments and Address Decades of Challenges

On June 27, 2024, nearly 500 nurses attended the American Nurse Association (ANA) Hill Day in Washington, D.C., participating in 235 meetings on various topics with 480 Legislature and Senate members and their staff. This annual effort helps to advocate for the over 5 million registered nurses worldwide.

Rick Bassett, NACNS President-Elect, Linda Thurby-Hay, NACNS Secretary & Treasurer, and Pamela Moss, NACNS Board Member, attended and participated in ANA Hill Day 2024. Amidst a nurse staffing crisis, advocacy for nurses is essential to help increase funding, implement safe standards, revise outdated laws, and more. Bassett was one of the hundreds of nurses at the U.S. Capitol Building seeking support and leading conversations with policymakers. Among the themes this year, Bassett noted four prominent areas Hill Day 2024 focused on:

  1. Improving Care and Access to Nurses (ICAN) Act
    • Allows nurses to provide certain services under Medicare and Medicaid, and removes practice barriers for CNSs and APRNs to provide more equitable care to patients in underserved areas.
  2. Restricting Mandatory Overtime for Nurses
    • Restricts use of mandatory overtime, with common sense exceptions, while providing whistleblower protection and requiring healthcare facilities to create policies relating to nurse overtime.
  3. Protect Timely Access to Quality Nursing Care in Long-Term Care Facilities
    • Establishes minimum safe staffing requirements, provides an exemption for understaffed facilities, and addresses nurse burnout and attrition.
  4. Nurse Faculty Shortage Reduction Act
    • Working to establish a 5-year pilot program to increase faculty at schools of nursing, create a grant to help combat the pay gap between clinical nursing and nurse faculty roles, and prioritize programs that serve vulnerable populations.

These four topics all relate to improving nurses’ working environment and practice barriers that have existed for decades. Participants of Hill Day collectively focused on these topics, working together to make their voices heard. The positive impact that Hill Day brings will benefit all registered nurses, including CNSs, by improving work environments and removing practice barriers.

Just Ask Jen: Why You Should Become a CNS

Join us in welcoming our current President, Jennifer Manning, to her first Just Ask Jen blog! In this quarter’s edition, Jennifer discusses the first steps to becoming a CNS, advice to someone considering becoming a CNS, and the advantages of being a CNS over another APRN role.

1. I am a nurse with a DNP in Leadership, and I am currently in an administrative role in quality and patient safety, however, I would like to pivot to a more patient-facing role in Geriatrics and Psychiatry. What would be the first steps toward becoming a CNS?

The first step toward becoming a CNS is identifying the program you want to enroll in and the population you want to care for. The most diverse population is the Adult Gerontology CNS and there are many in-person, hybrid, and distance learning options to choose from. I recommend you contact a program director from our webpage to further learn about programs you are interested in.

2. I am currently enrolled in an MSN program and teach nurse clinicals as adjunct faculty at the same college in Wisconsin. My primary interest in getting a master’s degree is to continue teaching, so currently, the plan is for me to continue into the CNS track. The college does not offer an MSN-ED degree or a general MSN. While there are other aspects of the CNS track that are of interest to me such as helping to reduce healthcare costs, I am wondering if the CNS is the correct path for me or if I should transfer to a program that offers an educator track. What are your thoughts? 

Wonderful news. I recommend the CNS track, as it offers the most options, including teaching students. You could also practice as an APRN based on the state scope of practice where you live.

3. What advice would you give to someone considering a CNS education path?

I would advise trying to find a CNS in your organization who is in practice and asking to shadow them or meet for coffee. It is helpful to list what is important to you as a career CNS. From there, identify a program to apply to and enroll!!

4. What are the advantages of becoming a CNS over another APRN such as an NP?

The advantage of becoming a CNS is the versatility of the role. Like the NP, the CNS can provide direct care. Unlike an NP, the CNS can also provide care and improve processes at the hospital system level and among nurses in organizations. The versatility is what I love about being a CNS. We improve care across all areas of healthcare.

5. What scholarships are available for those wanting to become a CNS?

Great question. As a member of NACNS, there are scholarships available on our website. I encourage you to go to your nursing school’s website and ask what scholarships are available. Too often, scholarships are not awarded because there are no applicants. If you take the time to look, and ask questions, you will find scholarships out there for you.

CNS Definition Gets an Update to Foster Understanding and Visibility

Anyone who has worked with a CNS understands our value. Given the positive impact we have, however, we are much fewer in number than we should be. Part of the challenge lies in the complexity of our role, which means that healthcare systems that don’t already have CNSs on staff often don’t know what we can accomplish, and typically haven’t even heard of the role.

Solving this problem will require a multifaceted and ongoing effort. To serve as the cornerstone for future efforts to enhance CNS visibility, ensure clarity and understanding among all stakeholders, and provide a reference point for the continued evolution of the role, we need an updated definition.

A joint effort of NACNS and the Clinical Nurse Specialist Institute (CNSI) sought to create a fresh definition that clarifies the CNS role. As of November 2023, the official definition now reads:

“A Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) prepared by a master’s, or doctoral, or post-graduate certificate level CNS program. CNSs diagnose, prescribe, and treat patients and specialty populations across the continuum of care. The CNS improves outcomes by providing direct patient care, leading evidence-based practice, optimizing organizational systems, and advancing nursing practice.”

We’re confident that this new definition will help engage more external stakeholders and lead to growth of our role, and better outcomes for patients, families, and healthcare systems.

Background: Reasons for Change

The idea for this initiative came about following a CNS Fellow (FCNS) town hall where the challenges of being a CNS and the opportunities we can leverage were discussed. Here are some of the key points raised:

  1. In some areas, there are plenty of CNSs doing exceptional work, but in other places, CNSs are underutilized.
  2. The scope of practice for CNSs varies from state to state.
  3. Some places have restructured job titles and eliminated the CNS designation, opting to hire non-CNS individuals for the same role.
  4. There is a lack of familiarity with and understanding of the CNS role amongst people who can have a big impact on the future of the CNS role, including chief nursing officers, other healthcare professionals including advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and nursing students.
  5. Due to this lack of understanding, CNSs are not utilized to their full potential, or are not hired by healthcare systems.

The Process

In February 2022, after the town hall, NACNS and the CNSI created a joint task force to find ways to highlight the significance of Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS). Their goal was to enhance the visibility and recognition of CNSs.

Initially, they considered conducting surveys, creating a toolkit, and leveraging social media. However, they realized that the fundamental challenge was the lack of awareness about the CNS role, and specifically that the definition of the role was unclear and inconsistent. The previous definition also didn’t effectively convey the essential aspects, such as practice elements and settings, to non-CNS individuals. They then set out to craft a new, clear, and easily understandable definition, factoring in:

  • Target audiences and their messaging needs.
  • Removal of words that people who aren’t CNSs might not get (like “spheres of influence/impact”).
  • Ensuring everyone knows what APRN scope of practice means for CNSs.
  • Clearly explaining the hands-on and non-hands-on parts of what CNSs do.

At the same time, the Statement on CNS Practice and Education task force was conducting work on the 4th edition of the NACNS CNS Statement, and the two groups decided to collaborate.

The two separate task forces each developed their own definitions. After sharing and refining these versions, the best elements from each were combined to form a final definition. In November 2023, the NACNS Board of Directors made a slight modification to the final statement, stipulating that only individuals who have completed a CNS program can be officially recognized and employed as CNSs.

Highlighting the Value of CNSs

This new definition holds immense importance as it enhances understanding of the CNS role and ensures that CNSs receive the respect they deserve. The collaborative efforts of the NACNS/CNSI task force and the Statement on CNS Practice and Education task force have effectively clarified the CNS role and set the stage for the future of CNSs.

NACNS Announces Clinical Nurse Specialist Award Recipients for 2024

US CNS Association Honors Remarkable Professional Excellence

WAKEFIELD, Mass. – Mar. 20, 2024 – The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) has unveiled its 2024 award recipients, as well as the individual chosen as the president-elect: Rick Bassett, MSN, RN, APRN, ACNS-BC, CCRN, FCNS.

NACNS stands as the sole non-profit organization in the United States that advocates for the 89,000 clinical nurse specialists (CNS) across the nation. It is committed to the promotion and enhancement of the practice and educational standards related to the profession. CNSs constitute one of the four distinct categories within the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) domain.

NACNS recognized outstanding achievements and contributions in the CNS field by presenting awards to its members and affiliated individuals. These individuals were chosen based on nominations and selections made by peers. 

“I am delighted to recognize these eleven dedicated CNSs who consistently go the extra mile and make significant contributions to the profession,” said Jennifer Manning, DNS, ACNS-BC, CNE, and NACNS president. “NACNS, and the CNS role, could not be where it is today without their invaluable support.” 

The 2024 NACNS National Award Winners are:

  1. CNS Preceptor of the Year: Latasia Belin, DNP, APRN, AGCNS-BC, ONC, FCNS
  2. Academic Faculty Award: David F. Bradley, Jr., DNP, RN, APRN, AGCNS-BC, CNOR, FCNS
  3. Susan B. Davidson Service Award: Jan Powers, Ph.D., RN, CCRN, CCNS, NE-BC, FCCM, FAAN
  4. CNS Mentor of the Year: Mary Lawanson-Nichols, MSN, RN, CNS, NP, CCRN
  5. CNS of the Year: Pamela Moss, MSN, MPH, APRN-CNS, ACCNS-AG, CCRN-CSC
  6. CNS Researcher of the Year: Sandra L. Siedlecki, Ph.D., APRN-CNS, FAAN
  7. Armed Forces CNS of the Year: Tracy Ostrom, RN, DNP, APRN-BC
  8. Rising Star of the Year: Megan Zondor, MSN, RN, AGCNS
  9. NACNS Affiliate of the Year: Wisconsin Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists
  10. CNS EBP/QI Award: Jodie Pufundt, DNP, APRN-CNS, RNC-NIC, EBP-C
  11. Brenda Lyon Leadership Award: Michelle Defabio, DNP, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, NEA-BC, NPD-BC

About the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists

The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) is the only national association representing the clinical nurse specialist (CNS). A CNS is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) prepared by a master’s, or doctoral, or post-graduate certificate level CNS program. CNSs diagnose, prescribe, and treat patients and specialty populations across the continuum of care. The CNS improves outcomes by providing direct patient care, leading evidence-based practice, optimizing organizational systems, and advancing nursing practice. NACNS is dedicated to advancing CNS practice and education, and removing unnecessary and limiting regulatory barriers while assuring public access to quality CNS services. Learn more and discover the benefits of joining the NACNS.

Media Contact
Melissa Bednar
NACNS Public Relations
Tel: +1 781.876.8962

Ask Mitzi Anything: Exploring the Path to Becoming a Clinical Nurse Specialist

In this quarter’s edition, Mitzi gives educational advice to submitters, discussing educational pathways, what types  of master’s degrees are needed to pursue a CNS role, and more.

  1. I’m in the process of pursuing an MSN in Healthcare Systems and Leadership. Can I get a CNS position with this degree?

    No, you cannot. The CNS title is protected and can only be used by those educated in a CNS program. See our official definition on the NACNS website. You will need to get a post-graduate certificate after completion of your program OR better yet, transfer now into a CNS program.

  2. I am a CNS certified in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric/Mental Health. Can I also treat adults? My training included the adult population as well.

    Yes, but as an RN and not as an APRN. You will be acting out of scope if you proceed as an APRN and act autonomously in the role.

  3. What type of master’s degree should you attain to become a CNS?

    We have three populations: neonatal, pediatric, and adult-gerontology. You can search for all three using our CNS Program Directory on the NACNS website. As long as the degree is in a CNS program, you can use the title and work as a CNS.

  4. I work in a geriatric clinic in Washington State and am in the process of earning my MSN-Ed. Will this degree qualify me for the Adult-Geriatrics CNS Certification?

    No, it will not. You have to either transfer to an Adult-Gero CNS program now or finish and then get a post-graduate certificate as an AG-CNS. See our CNS Program Directory on the NACNS website to find a program. This is a very popular option.

  5. If I have CNS students, can they precept with NPs?

    Yes, they can, as long as the clinical faculty grading and overseeing the student is a CNS who assures the student is meeting the CNS course objectives by doing CNS activities, then that is fine. It is preferred that the NP preceptor have a DNP so they know some about the system’s level work of the CNS. However, if CNSs are available, they should be used always. So using an NP is only in situations where you do not have CNS preceptors. Physicians are also acceptable but again in rare instances.

Congratulations to the January 2024 CNS Program Graduates!

Dear January 2024 Graduates,

Congratulations on completing your CNS program! One of the greatest perks of being a new CNS is that suddenly, you have the freedom to expand your practice, innovate, and implement changes with authority — the very changes that motivated you to pursue this career path.

With your extensive knowledge, skills, and experience coupled with CNS leadership, you can now operate at the highest level, even diagnosing and prescribing medical care as an APRN.

Here’s a piece of advice: establish strong partnerships with the C-suite and your superiors. Listen to their needs and advocate for frontline staff, including nurses. Building trust and respect in these relationships is crucial for maximizing your healthcare system privileges.

Additionally, regularly update your dashboards and distribute quarterly reports on your activities and outcomes. Never assume others are aware of your contributions. Just like any other profession, it’s essential to validate your work consistently.

Embrace your role as a Clinical Nurse Specialist and share your achievements on social media to raise awareness and celebrate the significance of this profession. Enjoy the exciting journey ahead!

Dr. Mitzi
NACNS President (2023-2024)


California State University of Dominguez Hills

  • Wendy Barahona
  • Kristopher Klein Clemeno
  • Anna Haas
  • Jason Leung
  • Isabel Mcdonald

Galen School of Nursing

  • Timothy Page

Johns Hopkins University

  • Molly Rodriguez

Old Dominion University 

  • Erin Dymon
  • Kelly Luellen
  • Crystal Silbak
  • Kaitlyn Sowell

Point Loma Nazarene University 

  • Marie Ullrich 

St. John Fisher College

  • Kate Jarvis

University of Detroit Mercy

  • Jon Benson
  • Kacie Garver
  • Stephanie Johnson
  • Christopher Marzec
  • Deborah Sanders

University of Maryland, Baltimore

  • Devan Martin

University of South Alabama

  • Sandra Tsay

Winona State University

  • Laura Larsen
  • Deborah Lindell 

Watch APSNA & NACNS’ Panel Discussion Webinar, “What is a CNS?”

On Wednesday, Jan. 10, at 7:30 p.m, the Association of Pediatric Surgical Nurses (APSNA) and the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) held an insightful panel with a group of pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialists. The panel discussion delved into the crucial topic of “What is a CNS?” focusing on the role and responsibilities of Pediatric CNSs.

This is an educational opportunity to become acquainted with the CNS career path and the associated motivation and satisfaction functioning in this role.

Watch the recording now