Clinical Nurse Specialist

Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs) are leaders in the field of nursing and play a pivotal role in health care. CNSs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have completed a graduate degree (Master’s or Doctorate) in a speciality practice area, demonstrating expertise in the specialty while maintaining strong clinical skills.  With a goal of providing safe, quality, and cost-effective health care while improving the health care system from within, they often serve as mentors, educators, and advocates. 

CNSs are expert clinicians with advanced education and training in a specialized area of nursing practice who work in a wide variety of health care settings. A clinical nurse specialists’ specialty may be defined by:

  • population (such as: pediatrics, geriatrics, women’s health);
  • setting (such as: critical care or emergency room);
  • disease or medical subspecialty (such as: diabetes or oncology);
  • type of care (such as: psychiatric or rehabilitation); or
  • type of problem (such as: pain, wounds, stress).

 A few of the most common include women’s health, emergency, and oncology.

In whichever is their chosen field, CNSs oversee the entirety of the patient’s experience. They are in charge of assessing, recording medical history, as well as ordering any necessary diagnostic tests. Once a diagnosis is determined, a CNS provides the treatment plan and communicates with the patient and family. The CNS sees their patient through the entire process, monitoring progress and ensuring patients receive the best possible care.

Research into clinical nurse specialists practice has shown positive impacts on patients, including reduced hospital costs and lengths of stay, improved pain management practices, increase patient satisfaction with nursing care, and more.  

Clinical nurse specialists have the skills and expertise to identify where the gaps are in health care delivery. They can help design and implement interventions, and assess and evaluate those to improve overall health care delivery. Thus, beyond providing direct patient care, CNSs oftentimes pursue leadership positions, play a role in policymaking decisions, conduct research, and continually educate colleagues. Many CNSs go on to earn a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) and pursue management and hospital administration careers.

The need for APRNs, including CNSs is increasing. The healthcare industry is quickly growing, and The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that all nursing positions will increase 26 percent by 2028, which is much faster than the average job growth.