Clinical Nurse Specialists / CNS Nurse

Around the late 1980's, the Indiana University School of Nursing Program provided a 3 day national conference entitled Strategies for Cost Effective Patient Care through Clinical Nurse Specialists. The convention became a biannual occurrence and continued the concept of CNS care from 1990-1996, appealing to Clinical Nurse Specialists, Nurse Educators and Nurse Administrators both across the country and internationally.

The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) ended up being an outgrowth of the energy and commitment of the frequent attendees of this conference over a 6-year time period. In the fall of 1995, the recognized launch meeting was presented in Indianapolis during an off year for the academic conference. Forty percent of the frequent attendees fully committed to taking part in this meeting to establish the by-laws and designate the first Board of Directors. In 18 months, the membership of this group grew from the initial 67 to 530. Currently, NACNS has grown to 2500 associates.

Job Description:

Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) are frequently responsible for evaluating and overseeing a healthcare facility"s nursing process and its impact on patient results. They provide clinical instructions to the nursing staff in the delivery of patient care applications and ensure that the nursing staff preserves an established level of clinical proficiency.

The majority of places employing CNS's require a master"s degree plus at least five years of expertise in their specialized field or in an associated area. They must be acquainted with a variety of principles, practices and methods in their specialized area because they depend on their extensive experience and judgment to plan and achieve goals. They must also be equipped to perform a range of nursing tasks and be able to lead and direct the work of other individuals. Generally, they report to a manager or head of a unit or division.

Because their discipline is so specialized, they can be located in most any institution that is geared to medical information such as hospitals, universities, government facilities, public health care facilities and nursing homes. They are seldom employed by private physicians or private employers. Back to top

Education Requirements:

A Registered Nurse (RN) who has specialized in certain areas of nursing is a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). CNS's usually focus on one area of training such as pediatrics, geriatrics, oncology or gynecology. They might also choose to concentrate on surgical skills in these types of areas, teaching, research or clinical duties needed. They are genuinely specialists in all parts of nursing and they get compensated for having these skills. One of the most significant factors in becoming a CNS is education. There are a number of ways to achieve the needed academic requirements to become a CNS.

A registered nurse (RN) may choose to become a clinical nurse specialist by obtaining a graduate program in the field of specialization of their preference. After earning their Bachelor of Science in Nursing, they would fill out an application to graduate school to study in their area of specialization. This graduate program generally takes two years, which includes about 500 hours of hands-on training, after which they can acquire the Master"s of Science in Nursing. Some CNS programs permit those who have bachelor"s degrees in science, yet are not nurses, to become a CNS. You must invest more time in school to get the necessary courses to become a nurse. Before university admissions you need to take Graduate Records Examination to get into graduate school. Back to top


Clinical Nurse Specialists are specialists in diagnosing and dealing with illnesses. This particular career also calls for a masters or doctorate degree. Some CNS can find jobs in the education or medical career fields so their incomes do vary depending on their job criteria. Most CNS generate over $50,000 per year, with slightly greater salaries for administrative placements. Back to top


Based on the APRN Consensus Model for Regulation (2008), "The CNS has a unique APRN role to integrate care across the continuum and through three spheres of influence: patient, nurse, system. The three spheres are overlapping and interrelated but each sphere possesses a distinctive focus. In each of the spheres of influence, the primary goal of the CNS is continuous improvement of patient outcomes and nursing care. Key elements of CNS practice are to create environments through mentoring and system changes that empower nurses to develop caring, evidence-based practices to alleviate patient distress, facilitate ethical decision-making, and respond to diversity. The CNS is responsible and accountable for diagnosis and treatment of health/illness states, disease management, health promotion, and prevention of illness and risk behaviors among individuals, families, groups, and communities."

The perfect job for Clinical Nurse Specialists is one that is gratifying and challenging as time passes. Negotiating the fine points to making that take place is a process that starts at the time of hiring and stretches throughout the period you have the position. The following tips may turn out to be helpful:
  • Prepare. One of the many features associated with Clinical Nurse Specialist is their organization abilities. This skill can help them get ready for their job search, prepare their portfolio/resume and investigate prospective employment opportunities. It is quite important as one move up the career scale of nursing that you keep comprehensive records of your work practical experience and educational presentations.
  • Professional Resume. Always keep your resume stream-lined and precise. It should be no longer than one page in length, even if you have a lot of achievements to highlight. Present those accomplishments in their best and most concentrated form. Help to make sure the resume stands out by using a heavier and sturdier grade of paper than standard typing paper. Stay away from using "special effects" like glitter or strange looking fonts. Bold text and different font sizes are acceptable in moderation. You need a crisp-looking resume that's professional looking and easily legible. Present more than a list of locations you worked. Identify your achievements, skills and responsibilities to demonstrate what you attained from those jobs.
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Career Outlook:

Based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recent report, job prospects for registered nurses (RN) are anticipated to expand by 22% between 2008 and 2018. Nurses with the greatest levels of training and education, such as clinical nurses, will be in the greatest need. One can find work in clinics, hospitals and research establishments. While registered nurses earned an average yearly salary of $67,720, clinical nurse specialists earned a higher average annual salary of $87,648 as of June 2010, according to Back to top