Special Interest Group

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Clinical Nurse Specialists Stand to Be Counted

By Jennifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN

Clinical Nurse SpecialistClinical nurse specialists (CNS) have never doubted their value–nor have the hospitals they serve. Still, though they’ve been around since the 1960s, there has long been misunderstanding outside the profession and even among bedside nurses about what exactly they do. Maybe it’s the name: Sure, they’re “specialized,” but in roles that cut across boundaries, units, and levels of management. For reasons of pride, professionalism, and even legislative protection, it was time for Hopkins CNS’s to get together and get the word out.

“Clinical nurse specialists drive quality and safety through expert practice, patient and family guidance, and staff mentorship,” says Sharon Olsen, PhD, RN, coordinator of the CNS track at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing from 2005-2011.

In 2012, Sharon Krumm, PhD, RN, administrator and director of nursing for the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Samantha Young, MS, RN, clinical nurse specialist on the Weinberg Surgical Intensive Care Unit, were asked by JHH executive nurse leaders to found a CNS specialty group at Johns Hopkins Hospital. “Our first goal was to figure out who is a clinical nurse specialist at the hospital,” Young says. “Now, our immediate goal is to let people know what a CNS is and what they do in the hospital.”

Both had been working with the Chesapeake Bay Affiliate of the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists to establish title protection for CNS’s in the state of Maryland. And while both were proud of their work at the state level, they saw a need to connect locally as well.

The CNS specialty group now has about 50 members and meets monthly. Together, they share practice insights and brainstorm ways to more effectively support (and utilize) CNS’s at Johns Hopkins. Recently, they’ve had success adapting more effective CNS evaluations.

The group also continues to support the push for CNS title protection. Thanks in large part to the efforts of Olsen, Krumm, Young, and other Hopkins CNS’s, Maryland’s Board of Nursing recently approved language that will restrict the use of the title “clinical nurse specialist” to nurses who have a master’s degree or higher in a nursing specialty, have completed an accredited clinical nurse specialist program, and are officially certified as a clinical nurse specialist.

To learn more about the CNS program at JHUSON, go to www.nursing.jhu.edu/cns.

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