Client Spotlight: NACNS

The Virtual Life : Article

Q&A with Client Experience Client, National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists

What makes NACNS different from other nursing organizations?
: NACNS is a niche nursing organization representing the needs of an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) – the Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). The CNS is a frequently misunderstood but invaluable part of the health system in the United States. NACNS works hard to ensure that every specification of CNS is supported. NACNS doesn’t focus on just one kind of clinical nurse specialist, but instead, makes sure that every CNS has the resources they need to succeed. A big part of that support is better educating decision-makers on the role and value that they play in healthcare systems. NACNS is the only organization in the United States that advocates for the CNS role as a whole.

The CNS is one of the four APRN categories as identified by the APRN Consensus Model. What does that mean? It means they are registered nurses educated at a Masters or post Masters level and in a specific role and patient population. The four APRN categories are – Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, and Certified Midwives. Looking at this list, it might be easy to understand why the role is misunderstood. Most people know what a midwife does or an anesthetist. Nurse Practitioners are the largest group and they work directly with patients and can assess, diagnose, order, and interpret medical tests, prescribe medications, and collaborate with doctors in the care of patients.

CNSs provide a broader and more varied role in health care. CNSs advanced practice is directed toward achieving quality, cost-effective, patient-focused outcomes across three spheres of impact (patient, nursing practice, and healthcare systems). Clinical nurse specialists provide direct patient care with autonomous authority to assess, diagnose, and prescribe pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic therapies across the spectrum of wellness to illness and from acute to primary care. CNS advanced practice competencies make the CNS uniquely qualified to lead innovative improvements in advanced practice nursing to transform healthcare. Their work is very similar to that of a Nurse Practitioner but they are also focused on best practices across systems – meaning they are looking to make sure not only one patient receives care in a specific way, but all patients in the facility are receiving the same level care. They evaluate broadly and frequently hold leadership positions in places of practice. The top ten hospitals in the nation understand, value, and utilize the services of CNSs.

What types of members does NACNS have, and what do they do?
NACNS: We have a wide range of members from all over the country. NACNS members are leaders in health care who work in various specialties across the continuum of health care to ensure high-quality, evidence-based, patient-centered care. Here are some areas that NANCS CNSs practice and specialize in:

  • Adult Health.
  • Adult Psychiatric and Mental Health.
  • Child/Adolescent Psychological and Mental Health.
  • Diabetes Management.
  • Ambulatory, Pain Management, Peri-anesthesia, and Palliative/Hospice Pediatrics.
  • Public and Community Health.
  • Women’s Health.

In addition to individual memberships for CNSs, NACNS offers membership opportunities for nursing students, retired clinical nurse specialists, those who have been members for 20 years or more, and those who are interested in supporting the clinical nurse specialist role but are not educated as a CNS, as well as institutional membership opportunities.

What is the best way to get involved with NACNS?
: Becoming a member of NACNS is the best way to get involved. Through growing our membership numbers, CNSs can come together and join the NACNS mission and the unstoppable advocacy in 2022. For more information on how to become a member, click here!

Can you tell us about the Annual Conference that you had in Baltimore?|
: Our 2022 Annual Conference was the first in two years to be held in person, with over 350+ attendees. The conference, themed “RISE of the CNS,” was held March 14-March 17 at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland, and offered many opportunities for attendees to engage with CNSs and other nursing leaders from around the nation.

The four days featured three keynote speakers, Andrew Miller, MA, Deborah Klein, MSN, APRN, ACNS-BC, CCRN-K, FAHA, FAAN, and Mary J. Zellinger, APRN, MN, ANP-BC, CCRN-CSC, CCNS, FCCM, FAAN, amongst 70+ engaging sessions, presentations, and workshops.

The new board members were announced at the conference, including Phyllis Whitehead, Ph.D., APRN/CNS, ACHPN, PMGT-BC, FNAP, FAAN, as the new NACNS President for 2022. In addition to the new board of directors, twelve award winners selected for excellence in the CNS role were showcased at the Annual Conference!

The event brought together our members for the first time in person in two years and kicked off Dr. Whitehead’s 2022 Presidency theme of ‘Unstoppable Advocacy.’

Can you tell us more about National Nurses Week/Month?
: The American Nurses Association started National Nurses Week to support and advocate for the role of nurses and their influential contributions to healthcare. Since 1990, National Nurses Week begins annually on May 6 and runs until May 12, ending on the birthday of Florence Nightingale. In addition, May 6th is observed as National Nurses Day, and May 8th is celebrated as National Student Nurses Day. As of 2020, the week of recognition was extended to the entire month of May, allowing for additional appreciation and awareness of the nursing profession.


Does NACNS have anything special planned for CNS week in September?
Clinical Nurse Specialist Recognition Week (CNS Week) is an annual event that acknowledges the contributions of the 89,000 Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs) in North America. It is a perfect time for CNSs to celebrate and bring attention to the role and for hospitals and health care systems to pay tribute to the valuable part CNSs play in health care and healthcare delivery.

The 13th Annual CNS Week is scheduled for September 1-7, 2022, and is dedicated to the theme of the NACNS 2023 Annual Conference, “Unstoppable Advocacy.” Be sure to follow NACNS on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to engage in our posts, explore our resources, download our toolkit, learn more about CNSs in the spotlight, purchase NACNS merch, and much more!

What is next for NACNS in 2022?
NACNS: Unstoppable Advocacy! Through a series of campaigns, events, and updated resources, the goal of the new NACNS President, Phyllis Whitehead, and NACNS is to show clinical nurse specialists across the country that they have an organization advocating for them and their role every single day. Continue to check the NACNS website for updates on initiatives to come in 2022 to continue the unstoppable advocacy and support of the clinical nurse specialist.


The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists is a membership organization devoted to advancing the unique expertise and values the clinical nurse specialist brings to delivering high-quality, evidence-based, patient-centered care and reducing the cost of health care delivery. NACNS has more than 2,000 members and represents the 89,000 clinical nurse specialists working in hospitals and health systems, clinics and ambulatory settings and colleges and universities today.

For more information about NACNS, or email the NACNS Staff at [email protected]

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