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Skills and Attributes Required by Clinical Nurse Specialists to Promote Evidence-Based Practice

Campbell, T. Diane PhD, RN; Profetto-McGrath, Joanne PhD, RN

doi: 10.1097/NUR.0b013e3182a0ba68
Feature Article

Purpose/Objectives: The purposes of this article were to describe the challenges that clinical nurse specialists (CNS) face in their role and to examine how CNSs describe the skills and attributes that are needed to promote the use of evidence-based practice (EBP) in their workplaces. This article is based on findings from a dissertation regarding how CNSs promote EBP in a western Canadian province.

Design: A sequential explanatory participant selection mixed-methods design was used for this study.

Setting: The study took place in a western Canadian province that has a population of 1 million people, with 42.7% of the population residing in the 2 largest cities.

Sample: The sample was drawn from a provincial registered nurse database. The sample for the survey was 23, and for the interviews, there were 11 participants.

Methods: The telephone survey contained 113 questions grouped into several subcategories. SPSS 18 was used to analyze the survey data. The semistructured interviews were conducted face to face, transcribed, and reviewed for recurrent themes. Interpretive description was used to analyze the themes.

Findings: The major challenges faced by CNSs are role strain, lack of support and resources, and role ambiguity. The skills and attributes required to be a CNS are graduate preparation, clinical expertise, and people/communication skills.

Conclusions: Clinical nurse specialists can improve patient outcomes by promoting EBP; to do so, they need to work in supportive contexts that give those in the CNS role a set of clear role expectations.

Implications: There are challenges faced by CNSs in Canada, and there is a need to strengthen the CNS’s role by standardizing the regulatory requirements at a national level.

Author Affiliations: Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, University of Saskatchewan (Dr Campbell); Professor and Vice Dean, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada (Dr Profetto-McGrath).

Funding was provided by the Government of Saskatchewan Health Bursary Program (2005).

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Correspondence: T. Diane Campbell, PhD, RN, University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus, 100-4400 4th Avenue, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada S4T 0H8 (

© 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins