• Certifications
  • CNS - Clinical Nurse Specialist

    • $295-$375
    • Renews every 5 years



    Clinical nurse specialists are advanced practice registered nurses who have graduate preparation (a Master’s or Doctorate) in nursing. Like other advanced practice registered nurses, they are trained in physiology, pharmacology, physical assessment, and their particular areas of specialty.

    A Clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is an advanced practice registered nurse who has earned a master's or doctoral degree in nursing. They use their expertise to assess, diagnose, and treat patients. But their role often extends into other areas, like health care management and research. 

    The beauty of a CNS role is that it is multi-faceted. They straddle both the patient care and administrative roles. In this dual role, they can gather information from the front lines of patient care and use it to develop ways to improve healthcare delivery.

    Clinical nurse specialists 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 specialist’s specialty may be defined by:

    • population (pediatrics, geriatrics, women’s health)

    • setting (critical care or emergency room)

    • disease or medical subspecialty (diabetes or oncology)

    • type of care (psychiatric or rehabilitation) 

    • type of problem (pain, wounds, stress)

    Clinical nurse specialists 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 best practices and evidence-based care to achieve the best possible patient outcomes.

    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.

    Research into clinical nurse specialist 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

    The APRN Consensus Model states that clinical nurse specialists who practice in the majority of states must obtain certification based on a population area. Current certification examinations based on population include:

    • Adult/Gerontology

    • Pediatrics

    • Neonatal

    While many of their core responsibilities and medical training are very similar, the NCSBN found that the emphasis of the clinical nurse specialist role tends to be administrative, research, or program development oriented, while nurse practitioners tend to focus more on direct patient care.

    Cost to certify

    $375 Non-Member
    $295 ANA Member
    $340 NACNS Member
    $340 APNA Member
    $295 ISPN Member


    Consult your state licensing board for specifics. Clinical nurse specialists are advanced practice registered nurses who have completed a master's program in nursing (MSN) or doctoral degree program (DNP). A DNP is necessary for those who wish to focus on research.

    Schools may offer CNS with a focus on:

    • Adult health

    • Adult gerontology

    • Acute care

    • Pediatrics

    • Psychiatric/mental health

    • Women's health

    • Community care/health


    Certification is valid for 5 years.

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