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Clinical Nurse Specialist Education: Actualizing the Systems Leadership Competency

Thompson, Cathy J. PhD, RN, CCNS; Nelson-Marten, Paula PhD, RN, AOCN

doi: 10.1097/NUR.0b013e318217b5c5
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Purpose: The purpose of this article was to show how sequenced educational strategies aid in the acquisition of systems leadership and change agent skills, as well as other essential skills for professional clinical nurse specialist (CNS) practice.

Background: Clinical nurse specialist education offers the graduate student both didactic and clinical experiences to help the student transition into the CNS role. Clinical nurse specialist faculty have a responsibility to prepare students for the realities of advanced practice. Systems leadership is an integral competency of CNS practice.

Implications: The contemporary CNS is to be a leader in the translation of evidence into practice. To assist students to acquire this competency, all CNS students are expected to use research and other sources of evidence to identify, design, implement, and evaluate a specific practice change. Anecdotal comments from students completing the projects are offered. Student projects have been focused in acute and critical care, palliative care, and adult/gerontologic health clinical settings; community outreach has been the focus of a few change projects. Examples of student projects related to the systems leadership competency and correlated to the spheres of influence impacted are presented.

Author Affiliations: Associate Professor, CNS Option Coordinator (Dr Thompson), Associate Professor (Dr Nelson-Marten), University of Colorado, Denver, College of Nursing.

Correspondence: Cathy J. Thompson, PhD, RN, CCNS, CNS Option Coordinator, College of Nursing, University of Colorado, 13120 East 19th Ave, Campus Box 288-19, Aurora, CO 80045 (

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.