Hi there, welcome to an informative and interactive read on how to become a Clinical Nurse Specialist!

This article discusses the educational requirements, skills, and credentials you need to become a Certified Nurse Specialist.

At the end of this read, you’ll know how to become a Certified Nurse Specialist.

We’ll focus on the following:

  • Overview of How to Become a Clinic Nurse
  • CNS Degree Programs
  • MSN Programs for Clinical Nurses
  • CNS Certification

Let’s get started without much ado!

Overview of How to Become a CNS

Clinical nurse specialist

Evidence-based practice is essential for every Nurse aiming to transition to a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS).

In other words, a CNS hopeful must adhere to results-oriented Nursing Practices.

Due to the ever-dynamic nature of Nursing Practice and Research, you must be versatile and flexible to fit into a CNS role.

You should also be interested in Nursing Education because CNSs educate other Nursing staff on current research and best practices.

CNS Degree Programs

Nursing Licensure and Certification

The Healthcare System thrives on collaboration; thus, Advanced Practice Nurses must be team players to achieve desired results.

Ultimately, you must demonstrate leadership skills to every Healthcare team member because you’re a role model to them.

Introduction to Clinical Nurse Specialist

Your actions and inactions will determine the kind of results you’ll get.

Now that you know that being Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) goes beyond merely diagnosing and providing Acute Care to patients, let’s discuss the Clinical Nurse Specialist pathway.

Steps to Becoming a Clinical Nurse Specialist

Clinical Nurse Specialist

Meeting the Clinical Nurse Specialist education requirements is straightforward if you know the steps to take per time.

Let’s x-ray the procedures to realize your CNS dream:

Step 1: Become a Registered Nurse

Before walking, you must know how to crawl: earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree precedes becoming an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN).

The CNS Nursing Program is only open to individuals who have completed a Bachelor’s degree and passed the National Council Licensure Exam—Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN).

You must have received your RN license from the relevant state board of Nursing before enrolling in a post-graduate degree program.

Being a Registered Nurse allows you to garner experience in different health care settings before choosing a specialty area in APRN CNS.

Step 2: Complete Your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree

The real journey to a Clinical Nurse Practitioner begins with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in a preferred specialization.

While the DNP isn’t a compulsory requirement, it’s ideal for CNS medical professionals who want to specialize in research.

Confirm the accreditation status of your preferred institution because numerous unaccredited schools are offering graduate-level Nursing Programs.

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) are accrediting bodies.

How long it takes to complete your Master’s Degree Program depends on your starting point:

Below is a summary of the duration it takes to complete your program in CNS schools:

  • 4 Years: Enrollment in a BSN Program immediately after high school
  • 2 Years: Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) to BSN
  • 2 Years: BSN to MSN Program
  • 3-4 Years: Bachelor’s Degree to Doctoral Degree
  • 1-2 Years: Master’s Degree to Doctoral Degree

Most institutions run online and onsite programs to ensure flexibility for students who still want to retain their full-time jobs while pursuing an Advanced Nursing Degree.

Most schools with online programs still require students to come on campus at some point to complete their coursework.

Institutions offer any of these CNS Specialties:

  • Women’s Health
  • Community Health
  • Pediatrics
  • Mental Health
  • Acute Care
  • Adult-Gerontology
  • Adult Health

Courses in the core curriculum include:

  • Statistics in Nursing Research
  • Theory and Ethics
  • Healthcare Context for Advanced Practice Nursing
  • Practical Application of Research to Direct Patient Care

Common Advanced Practice Courses include:

  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology for APRNs
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance
  • Advanced Health Assessment

Intending Clinical Nurse Specialists must take all the prerequisite courses that will make them function optimally within their scope of practice.

Step 3: Meet the Required Clinical Hours

After completing your coursework, you must also meet the clinical requirements.

According to the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS), you must record 500 hours of supervised Clinical Practice in a given Clinical Nurse Specialist role and patient population.

Steps to Becoming a Clinical Nurse Specialist

One of the CNS requirements you can’t compromise is that the authorities want to ensure you have the practical knowledge needed to function in your new position.

Even if you enroll in an online program, you’ll need to show up in a physical location for the Clinical Practice.

Step 4: Earn the Relevant Certifications

Clinical Nursing requires continuous learning; you need to earn additional Clinical Registered Nurse credentials in your preferred subspecialty to foreground your understanding of it.

No state board will give you a CNS license without earning the relevant certifications.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) certifies Healthcare Providers in the following specialties:

  • Adult-Gerontology
  • Pediatrics
  • Adult Health
  • Adult Psychiatric-Mental Health
  • Child/Adolescent Psychiatric-Mental Health

You must have the following to take any of these ANCC CNS Certifications:

  • A current and an unencumbered RN license
  • A Master’s or Doctoral Degree
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs should include separate courses in advanced Pharmacology, Health Assessment, and pathophysiology
  • Record of 500 supervised hours in any type of care as stipulated by the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS)

You’ll also pay a given exam fee and go through background checks.

Other CNS credentials meet the state Board of Nursing requirements.

For instance, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) certifies Clinical Nurses in Neonatal Acute Care, Pediatrics, and Adult Health.

Check with your state authorities to know the specific requirements and how best to prepare for patient care.

Step 5: Apply for Licensure

A CNS license is a mark of authority to practice in a preferred state.

Each Board of Nursing has its specific requirements for certifications.

So, check with your state authorities to know their peculiar requirements, but generally, you need to:

  • show proof of completion of the required educational programs
  • submit official transcripts of your MSN Program for verification
  • earn credentials or certifications from accredited or recognized institutions

Many Boards of Nursing also conduct background checks on intending CNSs to ensure questionable people aren’t allowed to hold sensitive positions.

After earning a license, you can apply for jobs in desired organizations.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted an impressive job outlook for Advanced Practice Nurses; hence, securing a dream won’t be difficult for you.

However, you must be strategic in your job search, and you should put your mental health ahead of financial gains because some organizations in the Wellness Sector are frustrating.

Step 6: Meet the Recertification Requirements

You’ll renew your license and credentials every 5 years, and you must meet some requirements before the renewal.

You must show evidence of contact hours and continuing education within those years before recertification.

Some certifying bodies expect you to apply for recertification three months before your credential expiration.

If you hold the AGCNS-BC credential, you must show evidence of 75 contact hours, of which 25 hours are in Pharmaco-Therapeutics.

You’ll also pay a given recertification fee.

Familiarize yourself with the recertification requirements of your licensing body to know how to meet them before time.

You can’t compromise this process because its essence is to ensure you stay updated about events in the field.

Hence, Clinical Nurses should take courses and attend seminars that enrich their understanding of their Nursing careers.


Conclusion on Clinical Nurse Specialist

After answering the “what is a CNS?” question, you should know how to become one.

Our discourse in this piece has answered the latter—we’ve dug deep into the processes of becoming a Clinical Nurse Specialist.

If you’re interested in becoming a CNS, the time to start is now, and rest assured that it’s worth the time, investment, and stress.

However, you should be passionate about this Nursing specialization to get the best out of it.

Clinical Nurse Specialists must also know how to use evidence-based practice, diagnose, and build quality relationships with patients and their loved ones.

It’s the ideal position for those willing to play leadership roles in the Healthcare Sector.

It also gives you an overview of all segments of Nursing; hence, it’s the most versatile Nursing Specialty!

You’re also free to choose your population foci—you may serve adults, children, or people with special cases.

With the right mindset and environment, you can become a Clinical Nurse Specialist within 2 years!


FAQs on how to become a clinical nurse specialist

What is a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

A Clinical Nurse Specialist is a Healthcare Provider who has completed a Master’s or Doctoral Program in a specialty area. Clinical Nurses possess advanced knowledge in their specialty and ensure positive patient outcomes. CNSs specialize in Oncology, Diabetes, Pediatrics, and Adult-Gerontology. Others are research-focused.

What skills do you need to be a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

CNSs possess versatile Clinical Nursing skills which enable them to achieve desired patient outcomes. Clinical Nurses must also know how to use evidence-based practice, diagnose, and build quality relationships with patients and their loved ones. Clinical Nurses should show leadership to other Nursing staff.

What is a CNS degree?

CNS degree is an advanced or post-graduate specialized educational Program aimed at training RNs in Clinical Nursing. Such CNS Programs include Adult-Gerontology, Oncology, Mental Health, and Acute Care. You must earn an MSN in a relevant discipline and acquire certifications from accredited bodies before licensure.

How do you become a CNS Nurse?

Meet the education requirements for a Clinical RN Program, acquire a relevant post-graduate degree, and earn required certifications such as the Adult-Gerontology for Clinical Nurse Specialist—Board Certified (AGCNS-BC). All types of Clinical Nurse Specialists require you to earn a license before practicing.

How much does a CNS make?

The average hourly wage of Clinical Nurses is $39.65 and $82,000 per annum. However, those at the entry-level make an average of $56,000 per annum, while experienced ones earn $119,000. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, education, work environment, geographical location, and expertise affect Clinical Nurses’ earnings.

How long does it take to become a CNS?

It takes at least 5 years for someone new to Nursing to become a CNS. However, if you’re a Registered Nurse, you need 2 years to earn a master’s degree in your preferred specialty. You may also earn a DNP within 2-3 years to solidify your knowledge in the field.

What are the disadvantages of being a CNS?

It is time-consuming; you must return to school for at least 2 years to earn a higher degree and other credentials. Nurse Practitioners and other APRNs also earn higher salaries than Clinical Nurses. The job is also demanding because CNSs are everywhere.

Why do I want to be a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

People aspire to CNS Nursing because it bolsters their Nursing careers. Clinical Nurses focus on Nurse management and administration—they’re involved in every aspect of the Healthcare System. This attribute settles the Clinical Nurse Specialist vs NP debate; a Nurse Practitioner doesn’t fit into every aspect of the healthcare system!

Is it worth becoming a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

Clinical Nurses are one of the most paid professionals in the Nursing field.
You can work with special populations and play leadership roles in your workplace. Clinical Nurses also work as Lab Researchers, Medical and Drug firms’ Representatives, and Project Managers. Hence, being a CNS is worth it!

Is a Clinical Nurse Specialist the same as a Nurse Educator?

A Nurse Educator is a subset of a Clinical Nurse Specialist. Hence, a CNS is a Nurse Educator. Nurse Educators are interested in teaching and advocacy. They instruct and guide aspiring Nurses through theoretical and practical means. Nurse Educators are the ladders through which Nursing hopefuls realize their dreams.


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