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Adult-Gerontology and Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist

School DNP Application Deadline

November 1 (for early acceptance) and March 1

DNP Plans of Study

Adult-Gero CNS

Pediatric CNS

What does a Clinical Nurse Specialist do?

Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) are licensed registered nurses who have graduate preparation (Master’s or Doctorate) in nursing as a Clinical Nurse Specialist. They practice in a wide variety of health care settings, and are expert clinicians in a specialized area of nursing practice. The specialty may be identified in terms of:

  • Population (e.g. pediatrics, geriatrics, women’s health)
  • Setting (e.g. critical care, emergency room)
  • Disease or Medical Subspecialty (e.g. diabetes, oncology)
  • Type of Care (e.g. psychiatric, rehabilitation)
  • Type of Problem (e.g. pain, wounds, stress)

In addition to providing direct patient care, CNSs influence care outcomes by providing expert consultation for nursing staffs and by implementing improvements in health care delivery systems. CNS practice is conceptualized across three spheres in which the CNS exerts influence:

  • Patient/Client Sphere (Individual, Family, Community)
  • Staff Sphere (Nurses, Nursing Practice)
  • Organization/System Sphere

From National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) – for more information, visit their website

Who should apply?

Individuals with at least a baccalaureate degree in nursing who want to:

  • Provide advanced practice nursing care to adults or children with complex health problems across the continuum of care
  • Become clinical experts in the diagnosis and treatment of illness and the delivery of evidence-based nursing interventions for a specialty population
  • Empower other nurses to advance their nursing practices and improve patient outcomes
  • Develop the knowledge, skills, and clinical expertise to effect system-wide changes to improve programs of care

Career opportunities

  • Clinical nurse specialist in acute care, critical care, rehabilitation, long-term care and community-based health care settings
  • Program director or coordinator in various health settings
  • Case manager in pediatric and adult inpatient and outpatient settings
  • Care coordinator of healthcare services for people in rehabilitation centers, long-term care facilities, residential care facilities, outpatient clinics, and home health agencies
  • Trauma coordinator for a trauma center
  • Transplant coordinator in a hospital or for a regional organ donor network
  • Director or staff development coordinator in acute care, long-term care, public health, and home health agencies
  • Consultant for hospitals, rehabilitation centers, long-term care facilities, home health agencies, schools, or day care centers
  • Research coordinator in a variety of healthcare settings
  • Quality improvement coordinator or Outcomes manager in a variety of healthcare settings
  • Clinical instructor in a School of Nursing

The curricula

The DNP curricula includes theoretical courses and clinical practica to provide the necessary knowledge and skills to function in the advanced practice nursing role. The DNP curriculum is based on recommendations by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) in The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice (2006).

CNS specialty focused content is based upon recommendations developed by:

  • National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS)
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist Core Competencies (2010)
    • Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialists Competencies (2010)
    • Core Practice Doctorate Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Competencies (2009)
    • Statement on Clinical Nurse Specialist Practice and Education (1998, 2004)
  • American Association of Critical Care Nurses
    • AACN Scope & Standards for Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialists Practice (2014)
  • American Nurses Association (ANA)/Society for Pediatric Nurses (SPN)/National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP).
    • Pediatric Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice (2008)

The curricula provide not only core knowledge in theory, research, evidence-based practice, health care policy, financing, ethics and sociocultural issues, but also advanced practice knowledge in physiology/pathophysiology, physical assessment and diagnostic reasoning, pharmacology, population health, and role development. CNS specialty courses focus on diagnosis and treatment of acute, critical, and chronic illnesses across the continuum of care; improvement and monitoring of quality, safety, and performance outcomes, and teaching clients symptom and self-management strategies.

Students must select a population of interest- adult-gerontology or pediatric. Sample DNP Programs of Study can be found on the right hand side of this webpage in the tan box labeled "DNP Plans of Study."

In addition to the core content and based on the student's specialty area of interest, the program of study can be individualized to meet the student's personal career goals. Clinical practica settings, which are student-selected, include outpatient clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, long-term care facilities, home health agencies, hospice programs, schools, public health agencies, and state agencies. Students also may have clinical experiences with urban or rural, underserved populations.

All courses are offered in a distance-mediated format. An on-campus visit is required for five days during the summer before coursework begins for orientation to the DNP program. Additional campus visits will be required for throughout the program (see plans of study).

Frequently asked questions

For what certification would I be eligible?

Graduates of the DNP program in the Clinical Nurse Specialist area of study will be eligible for advanced practice nurse certification as an Adult-Gerontology or Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) [hyperlink]- and the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) [hyperlink]-

Advanced practice nurse certification is also available through some specialty professional organizations. Students interested in obtaining specialty certification are responsible for checking with their specialty organization to determine eligibility requirements for taking the exam. Students also are advised to contact their state board of nursing to determine which national certifying bodies are acceptable in their state. 

Who is eligible to be my preceptor?

Preceptors must be approved by the course faculty. Students may not begin clinical hours until the preceptor's credentials have been verified. See information on the Sinclair School of Nursing Preceptor Policy.

What type of clinical sites do I need?

Clinical sites are approved by the course faculty and may be at a location near your home. Students may not begin clinical hours until the Clinical Agency Agreement is in place. See information on the Sinclair School of Nursing Clinical Practica web page regarding Clinical Agency Agreements.

Students are advised to inquire about any additional drug testing, mandatory training, immunizations or compliance paperwork that may be required by a potential clinical agency before the student pursues an agreement or begins clinical hours.

Specific clinical site requirements for each clinical course can be found on the Clinical Site Requirement page- [hyperlink]

Clinical Courses for CNS Students Include:

All CNS Students:
  • N7140 Advanced Health Assessment and Promotion
  • N8710 Clinical Management of Acute & Critical Care Problems
  • N8720 Symptom Management of Acute and Chronic Illness
  • N8920 Quality, Safety, & Performance Outcomes
  • N8540 Advanced Diagnostics & Reasoning
  • N9070 DNP Clinical Residency
  • N9080 DNP Residency Project
Adult-Gerontology CNS Students
  • N8400 Management of Adult & Geriatric Primary Care 1
  • N8410 Management of Adult & Geriatric Primary Care 2
Pediatric CNS Students:
  • N8210 Special Healthcare Needs of Children in the School Setting
  • N8420 Newborn through Adolescence Primary Care

For other general questions about the DNP in nursing program, see the FAQs for DNP Students.

Who can I contact if I have specific questions about the DNP programs or the application process?

Specific questions about the DNP programs or about applying to the DNP programs can be answered by the staff in the Office of Student Affairs in the Sinclair School of Nursing - 573-882-0277  573-882-0277 or (toll free) 800-437-4339.

Who can I contact if I have specific questions about the Adult or Pediatric CNS program?

For specific questions about the Adult-Gerontology or Pediatric CNS program, please contact the Coordinator of the CNS area of study - Carolyn Crumley at .