What Is A Clinical Nurse Specialist?


The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) has been a part of the healthcare industry in the United States for more than 60 years. Through the decades, the profession has become widely accepted in the healthcare system as a standardized, licensed, and fully regulated healthcare occupation, and one that significantly impacts the nation’s economy by providing safe, low-cost, and effective evidence-based healthcare services.

Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs) are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) who have graduate preparation (Master’s or Doctorate) in nursing. Like other APRNs, they are trained in physiology, pharmacology and physical assessment, in addition to their particular areas of specialty.  CNSs are leaders in healthcare, functioning in five subroles including:  Expert in Clinical Practice, Educator, Leader, Researcher and Consultant.  We influence our three spheres of practice:  Patient Care, Nursing and Systems.

How Do Clinical Nurse Specialists Influence Healthcare Delivery?

Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs) provide diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing management of patients. They also provide expertise and support to nurses caring for patients at the bedside, help drive practice changes throughout the organization, and ensure the use of best practices and evidence-based care to achieve the best possible patient outcomes.

CNSs 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 healthcare delivery.

Research into CNS practice demonstrates outcomes such as:

  • Reduced hospital costs and length of stay
  • Reduced frequency of emergency room visits
  • Improved pain management practices
  • Increased patient satisfaction with nursing care
  • Reduced medical complications in hospitalized patients