Year: 2024

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