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Canadian Nurses Association launches core competencies for clinical nurse specialists

Ottawa, Wednesday, June 18, 2014 — The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) today launched core competencies for the clinical nurse specialist (CNS). A CNS is a registered nurse (RN) with a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing, extensive nursing knowledge and skills, clinical expertise and experience in a specialty area. Defined competencies serve to clarify the CNS role, establish it as part of the health-care team and use it to its maximum potential.

“These competencies are an important step in the continued advancement of the CNS role, and they help carve a place for the advanced education and specialized skills RNs may have,” said CNA president Barb Mildon. “For example, they will inform the development of a standardized education curriculum to provide RNs with the specific preparation needed for the role. They will also provide valuable guidance for employers implementing the CNS role to enhance care in their organizations.”

The CNS role first emerged in the 1960s as client care grew increasingly intricate due to more complex patient needs and fast-paced technology development. Since its emergence, the number of clinical nurse specialists has fluctuated. The extent of their deployment has also varied because the CNS title and role description were not consistently understood.

Competencies refer to the specific knowledge, skills and personal attributes required for a CNS to practise safely and ethically in a designated role and setting.

Competency Overview:

  1. The CNS uses advanced and expert knowledge, skills and abilities to develop, coordinate and evaluate a collaborative plan of care for highly complex clinical situations with the focus on optimizing health and quality of life for the individual, group, community and population.
  2. The CNS is a nursing leader with the ability to manage change and influence clinical practice and political processes, including advocating for and promoting the importance of access to care and advanced nursing services, to clients, nurses, other health professionals, the public and decision-makers.
  3. The CNS leads and fosters the professional development of RNs and nursing practice to maximize the scope and depth of practice leading to optimal client outcomes.  
  4. The CNS searches for, critiques, interprets, synthesizes, uses and disseminates evidence in clinical practice and for quality improvement and client safety initiatives. Development and evaluation of programs and services at various levels are often driving factors behind the CNS practice.

The core competencies were launched during CNA’s biennial convention in Winnipeg. View the complete Pan-Canadian Core Competencies for the Clinical Nurse Specialist.

CNA is the national professional voice of registered nurses in Canada. A federation of 11 provincial and territorial nursing associations and colleges representing 151,404 registered nurses, CNA advances the practice and profession of nursing to improve health outcomes and strengthen Canada’s publicly funded, not-for-profit health system.


For more information, please contact:
Kate Headley, External Communications Coordinator
Canadian Nurses Association
Telephone: 613-237-2159, ext. 561
Cell: 613-697-7507
E-mail: kheadley@cna-aiic.ca