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Clinical Nurse Specialists: Then, Now, and the Future of the Profession

McClelland, Molly PhD, MSN, RN, CMSRN, ACNS-BC; McCoy, Mary Anne PhD, RN, ACNS-BC; Burson, Rosanne DNP, RN, ACNS-BC

doi: 10.1097/NUR.0b013e3182819154
Feature Article

Purpose: The role of the clinical nurse specialist (CNS) has evolved significantly over time and will continue to do so. Future students, faculty, and practicing CNSs should be aware of their roots, current status, and what the future may entail.

Rationale: An accurate understanding and reflection of the past, present, and future of this specific advanced practice nursing specialty could ensure its continued success as a predominate force in health restoration and the promotion of the health and well-being of people.

Description: A review of the literature yielded a lack of cohesive information about the evolution of the CNS role, prompting an investigation into the historical, current, and future aspects of the CNS.

Outcome: This article compiles information related to the evolution of the CNS role and what the future may entail.

Conclusion: An understanding of how the CNS role evolved, where it stands currently, and future considerations may help clarify the role, improve utilization of the CNS in a variety of settings, improve standards for CNS education and certifications, and advance this nursing practice specialty.

Author Affiliations: Assistant Professor of Nursing and Clinical Coordinator Clinical Nurse Specialist Program, University of Detroit Mercy, College of Health Professions, Michigan (Dr McClelland); American College of Nurse Practitioners Program Director, Wayne State University, Nurse Practitioner, Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, Michigan (Dr McCoy); and University of Detroit Mercy, Michigan (Dr Burson).

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Correspondence: Molly McClelland, PhD, MSN, RN, CMSRN, ACNS-BC, 5800 Snowshoe Cir, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48301 (

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