Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
Clinical Nurse Specialist Role
Clinical Nurse Specialist Scope of Practice
How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist
There are many steps to becoming a clinical nurse specialist. Prior education, certification and clinical practice are among the requirements for being accepted into a relevant graduate program, like an online MSN program. Here is a step-by-step path you can take to become a clinical nurse specialist.
- Become a registered nurse.
In order to apply to a clinical nurse specialist program, you must have completed a degree in registered nursing and be certified as a registered nurse in a U.S. state or territory.
- Apply to programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
These programs must be master’s, postgraduate or doctoral programs.
- Complete 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours related to the clinical nurse specialist role and population, according to the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists – Criteria for CNS Programs.
- Apply to take the exam relevant to your specialty administered by the ANCC to earn your CNS certification.
The exam tests clinical knowledge and skills.
- Apply for state CNS certification in the state where you wish to practice.
- Once you have earned your clinical nurse specialist certification, it must be renewed every five years.
In addition to renewing certification through the board, renewal through the state is also required and may require additional fulfillment of continuing education contact hours.
Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Certifications
A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who provides assessments, diagnosis and treatment to patients. CNSs often act as leaders in healthcare, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
CNSs may specialize in many areas, just as other APRNs will. They may choose to focus on pediatrics, psychiatric, acute care or other specializations. A CNS’ specialization determines their responsibilities, but they will typically provide direct care to patients and work with other nurses to improve quality of care.
Becoming a CNS typically requires a graduate degree in nursing with national certification and state licensure. Previous education and experience will determine the time it takes to become a CNS as well. If you don’t have a bachelor’s in nursing, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program may take more time to complete. Be sure to check with your preferred nursing program and to verify your state’s licensure requirements.
A clinical nurse specialist and nurse practitioner are both types of advanced practice registered nurses that require a graduate degree in nursing for education requirements for licensure. While CNSs provide direct care to patients and may often work with other providers to improve the quality of care, nurse practitioners mainly focus on providing care to a variety of patients including education and wellness plans.