Press Room

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

Clinical Nurse Specialist Institute Announces 2024 Class of Fellows

CNSI Institute

The Clinical Nurse Specialist Institute (CNSI) is pleased to announce the 2024 Class of CNSI Fellows. This is a highly prestigious honor and only awarded to those members of the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) who epitomize the excellence of Clinical Nurse Specialist as leaders of the nursing profession, staunch advocates for patients and families, and forerunners of innovations to improve the health of populations. The new fellows will be inducted on Tuesday, March 12th during the NACNS 2024 conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. Guest tickets for attending the dinner event are available on the NACNS conference registration website.

The 2024 Class of Fellows are:

Elissa Brown, MSN, RN, PMHCNS-BC (California)
Jackeline Iseler, DNP, MSN, RN, ACNS-BC, CNE (Michigan)
Wendy M. Hamilton, Major, U.S. Army, DNP, APRN, AGCNS-BC, RN-BC (Hawaii)
Julie Kathman, DNP, APRN, CNS-BC, CPN, C-ONQS (Hawaii)
Mary O. Lawanson-Nichols, MSN, RN, CNS, NP, CCRN (California)
Joseph W. Liggett, MSN, RN, APNP, ACCNS-AG, CCRN (Wisconsin)
Julie M. Linder, DNP, APRN, CNS, ACCNS-AG, CCRN (North Carolina)
Jennifer Manning, DNS, ACNS-BC, CNE (Louisiana)
Jennie Matays, DNP, RN, CNS, CCRN, CCNS (California)
Nicholas O’Neel, Major, U.S. Army, DNP, ARNP (Hawaii)
Pamela Jane Nye, MS, RN, CNS-BC, CNRN, SCRN (California)
Amy Patterson, MSN, APRN, AOCNS, BMTCN (Florida)
Jan Powers, PhD, RN, CCRN, CCNS, NE-BC, FCCM, FAAN (Indiana)
Rosemary A. Timmerman, DNP, APRN, CCNS, CCRN-CSS-CMC (Alaska)
Patricia K. Tuite, PhD, RN, CCNS (Pennsylvania)

In 2016, the CNSI was founded as an arm of the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS). Its goal is to develop and promote the charitable, educational, innovative clinical practice and scientific purposes of NACNS. Today, the Clinical Nurse Specialist Institute is the 501(c)3 arm of the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists.

Ask Mitzi Anything: Professional Development, Trends, and Advocacy for the Clinical Nurse Specialist 

In this quarter’s edition, explore how NACNS aids in professional development, tackles challenges in the clinical nurse specialist role, and discover resources for staying updated on healthcare advancements and advocacy efforts at the state and national levels.

1. How does NACNS support the professional development of clinical nurse specialists?

We make this a priority at NACNS by using a variety of strategies. Our many committees are constantly working on toolkits to aid in such development. For example, our Professional Development Committee is currently working on coding and billing toolkits. Our Research, EBP and Scholarship Committee is working to update the CNS Outcomes White Paper, and our Leg/Reg Committee just completed an Executive Summary on CNS Title Protection that CNSs can use in their worksites and HR departments.

We also host many learning activities throughout the year, such as our Annual Conference. We put in countless hours to host an extraordinary event for CNSs and always at a reduced discount for our members to attend and receive plenty of professional development opportunities.

We also feature webinars and courses currently hosted on our website. We will continue to explore new ways to meet our members’ professional needs and hope to bring back a consistent webinar series, much like we had in the pre-COVID years.

Our level of opportunities for volunteerism and leadership positions in NACNS is also noteworthy. Being involved as a volunteer is one of the most important ways to grow professionally. 

2. Can you share insights on the current trends and challenges in the field of clinical nurse specialist practice?

A current trend in the CNS practice is a movement towards more CNSs gaining prescriptive privileges and/or authority. CNSs need to function at the full scope of practice and be writing orders as needed at the point of care to make the biggest impact and show CNS value in direct care.

One challenge CNSs are facing is the barriers to the full scope of practice imposed by healthcare systems, i.e., professional inequity towards CNSs. Other challenges are when CNSs focus too little on the direct care role, moving them further and further away from patient care and having more difficulty showing value as APRNs.

3. What resources or initiatives does NACNS provide to help CNS professionals stay updated on the latest advancements in healthcare?

I think attending our conference in person or virtually is one of the best ways to stay updated. I think the networking opportunities among members are another excellent and underutilized resource. Here at NACNS, we have a wealth of expertise, and I know CNSs are willing to share their expertise with others. I think being on committees as a volunteer or a taskforce to meet others is also an invaluable opportunity for networking and creating new partnerships among CNSs.

4. How does NACNS advocate for the role of clinical nurse specialists at both the state and national levels? 

There is a saying: “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.” Your membership dollars help us to stay at the table. We are currently on major APRN groups and attending major conferences of importance to make sure the CNS role is visible. We just started that practice a year ago and want to continue it.

We are also focused on growing enrollments in CNS programs and public awareness of the role. We are now having booths at conferences we know can attract nurses to the role, like the National Student Nurses Association’s annual conference. We just launched a new user-friendly and updated CNS Program Directory to facilitate getting interested nurses in the role in front of program directors faster. We also started a new CNS Program Directors Council this year so NACNS can better support our CNS programs to grow the numbers of CNSs.

Position statements are also important. We work hard on them every year to help CNSs in practice advocacy efforts. We recently passed the Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Full Practice Authority position statement and the Title Protection for CNSs PositionStatement will be available for public comment in early 2024.

These are just a few of the many, many activities NACNS does to support CNS practice nationwide. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated on all the exciting things we are up to!

Congratulations to Summer 2023 CNS Program Graduates!

Dear Summer 2023 Graduates,

Congratulations on your recent graduation from a CNS program!

I believe the best thing about being a new CNS is the autonomy. Suddenly, you have the freedom to expand your practice and thinking and make changes happen with authority — the very changes that prompted you to become a CNS in the first place.

The ability to crack the egg wide open on all the knowledge, skills, and experience you have paired with CNS leadership, you can now practice at the highest level, the APRN level — and even diagnose and prescribe medical care.

But take my advice: partner well with the C-suite, or your boss’s boss. Listen to their needs and take them to the front lines. Express to them the needs of nurses, too! Also, establish physician partnerships and be bold in letting them know what you can do as a CNS. You need these relationships of trust and respect to develop your set of healthcare system privileges to practice to the full extent of your capabilities.

Finally, create and update your dashboards often and distribute quarterly reports on your activities and outcomes. Never assume others know what you are doing. All professions have to validate their work, and we are no different.

Now, enjoy being in the best nursing role—the CLINICAL NURSE SPECIALIST! And don’t forget to splash your achievements all over social media to grow this incredible role across the globe and celebrate you.

Dr. Mitzi
NACNS President (2023-2024)

Edgewood College

Jonathan Milton

Gwynedd Mercy University

Lauren Adams

Indiana University

Sonia Hedge

Liberty University

Kylie Weant

Michigan State University

Emily Hapner
Sophie Petti

Point Loma Nazarene University

Juan Fernando Manuel Montano
Merari Morales
Kona Yang

Purdue University Northwest

Julia Chase
Kassandra Hyde

St. John Fisher University

Cynthia Burgess
Elizabeth Willome

Texas Christian University

Natalie Raincsuk


Kate Echereodo

University of Colorado

Megan John

University of Minnesota

Rachel Tien

University of South Alabama

Shiny George
Kelsie Otten
Coral Pettit

University of Southern Indiana

Kelly Duke
Ashley Eads

University of Virginia

Candace Melendez

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

Zeineb Selmane

Eight Distinguished Clinical Nurse Specialists Elected to 2024 NACNS Leadership

NACNS Continues to Advocate for 89,000 Clinical Nurse Specialists in the U.S.

RESTON, VA – Oct. 25, 2023 – The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) today announced it welcomes three new members to its Board of Directors and introduces its President-Elect and Nominating Committee Members.

The NACNS serves as the representative body for clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) across the U.S. These highly skilled professionals are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) with specialized graduate-level training in nursing. They possess the authority to diagnose, treat, prescribe, and improve outcomes by providing direct patient care, leading evidence-based practice, optimizing organizational systems, and advancing nursing practice.

Mitzi Saunders, Ph.D., APRN, ACNS-BC and President of NACNS, emphasized that NACNS Board Members play a vital leadership function within the organization, serving as the foremost champions for the 89,000 CNSs in the U.S.

“Our recently elected leadership’s dedication to leading the next generation of CNSs transcends the boundaries of NACNS and extends to their patients and the institution they serve, as CNSs possess a unique skill set enabling them to excel both at the bedside and in clinical or educational capacities. I’d like to thank them for their unwavering commitment to the CNS role,” she said.

The 2023 President-Elect, Jennifer Manning, DNS, ACNS-BC, CNE​, shared her excitement for the year to come.

“I am very excited and honored to step into the role of President for NACNS in 2024. This is a pivotal time for Clinical Nurse Specialists, and I am committed to advocating for the invaluable contributions they make to healthcare. Together with the dedicated members of NACNS, I look forward to advancing our profession, ensuring the highest quality of care for patients, and strengthening the impact of Clinical Nurse Specialists nationwide,” she said.

Newly elected leadership includes: 

2024 President-Elect

  • Rick Bassett, MSN, RN, APRN, ACNS-BC, CCRN, FCNS

Board of Directors

  • David F. Bradley, Jr., Lt Col, USAF, AGCNS-BC, CNOR, FCNS
  • Kayla Little, MSN, APRN, AGCNS-BC, PCCN
  • Jeannette (Jeannie) Meyer, RN, MSN, CCRN-K, CCNS, PCCN-K, ACHPN

Nominating Committee Members

  • Linda Cole, DNP, RN, APRN, CCNS, CPHQ, CNE, FCNS
  • Jesse Michael Hartmann, DNP, APN, AGCNS-BC, CNAMB, CNOR, CSSM, RNFA, MAJ, Army, Nurse Corps
  • Brittany D. Rhoades, Ph.D., APRN, CCNS, CCTN
  • Allegra Del Rio, MS, BSN, AGCNS, MEDSURG-BC

About The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists

The NACNS is the only national association in the U.S. representing the CNS. It is committed to showing the value of the CNS as an APRN, embracing full practice authority for all CNSs, providing support to individual CNSs, CNS programs, and entities employing CNSs, and achieving and maintaining organizational excellence. NACNS strives to meet its vision that every CNS is an APRN with a full scope of practice and is a transformative innovator leading improvement across healthcare environments. For more information, or to join NACNS, click here.

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