Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) are advanced-practice nurses who hold either a master's degree or doctoral degree in nursing. They specialize in a specific population such as:

  • Adult/Gerontological health
  • Acute care
  • Pediatrics
  • Mental health
  • Women's health
  • Community/Public Health

During the CNS program in school, the student chooses which CNS track they are interested in. After graduation, they can take the certification exam in their specialty through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Changing from one of the main specialty areas listed above would be difficult, as eligibility criteria for certification include a minimum number of supervised clinical hours (i.e., in school) within that specialty. For example, a CNS who graduated and obtained certification in Adult/Gerontology would have a challenging time becoming certified in Pediatrics later on, as one of the requirements for certification includes a minimum of 500 faculty-supervised hours in the pediatric population.

However, clinical nurse specialists can change subspecialties with relative ease. For example, CNSs who have worked for extended periods of time in adult health may work in areas such as cardiology, nephrology, or neurology. Acute care CNSs can work in the emergency department, intensive care, or other specialty units in the hospital setting (i.e., telemetry, neurology, etc.).

It's important for clinical nurse specialists to determine eligibility requirements based on their employer. Job postings should outline the specific requirements for the position.

Amanda Bucceri Androus RN, BSN

Amanda Bucceri Androus RN, BSN

Amanda Bucceri Androus is a Registered Nurse from Sacramento, California. She graduated from California State University, Sacramento in 2000 with a bachelor's degree in nursing. She began her career working night shifts on a pediatric/ med-surg unit for six years, later transferring to a telemetry unit where she worked for four more years. She currently works as a charge nurse in a busy outpatient primary care department. In her spare time she likes to read, travel, write, and spend time with her husband and two children.
Amanda Bucceri Androus RN, BSN

Latest posts by Amanda Bucceri Androus RN, BSN

Our Visitors Found These Nursing Topics Useful

What if My Nursing School Isn’t Accredited?

How important is it to attend an accredited nursing school? You may be going through a time where you just found out that your nursing school is not or was not accredited, or you may be reading this because you…

How to Return to a Nursing Career After a Hiatus

While Nursing is an excellent career, some nurses choose to take extended breaks from nursing for a variety of reasons. Some chose to have families, others pursue different career paths or interests but may decide to return to nursing after…

Nurse Practitioner vs RN Salary

Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and Registered Nurses (RNs) have different roles in patient care. RNs typically work in patient-facing roles carrying out procedures, treatments, and medications ordered by a provider (such as a physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner) while NPs…

Nurse Manager Leadership Recommendations for Staff Engagement and Success

Becoming a nurse manager is a step on the clinical ladder that many nurses hope to achieve. When leading and managing a group of nurses and ancillary staff, certain managerial traits can help boost morale, encourage teamwork, and keep staff…

Accountability of Practice

A recent court case in Delaware has sparked conversations around accountability of practice. It is imbedded into the nursing brain to follow all orders given by a physician. Failure to do so can result not only in potential harm to…