A Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) is a master's or doctoral-prepared nurse who is certified in a specialty area. They are considered clinical experts in their specialty and demonstrate both clinical and leadership skills. They serve as educators, mentors, and agents of change within an organization.

Clinical nurse specialists may work directly with patients and occasionally prescribe medication if their position requires it, but they usually focus on education, research, and developing evidence-based policies and practices to improve patient care outcomes.

A CNS can work with a variety of professionals, and it depends on where they work. In the hospital setting, for example, a CNS can interact with those involved with direct patient care such as:

  • Nurse assistants
  • Technicians
  • Physicians
  • Nurses
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Physical Therapists

However, as master's or doctoral-prepared specialists they can also work alongside administrative staff such as:

  • Managers (clinical and non-clinical)
  • Supervisors
  • Administrators
  • Department Secretaries
  • Directors
  • Researchers

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