Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs: The Best Choices in 2023


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    Dear esteemed reader, welcome to an interesting and informative read on Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs!

    This article will expose you to the list of accredited CNS Programs, factors to consider when enrolling for a program, and how to choose the best school of Nursing.

    You’ll understand the best CNS Programs at the end of this piece.

    We’ll x-ray the following issues:

    • Introduction to Online CNS Programs
    • Benefits of accredited CNS Nursing Programs
    • Accredited CNS Programs
    • Factors to consider in choosing CNS online schools

    Without further ado, let’s sip this intellectual wine!

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      Overview of Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs

      The Best Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs

      Nurses play an inevitable role in the health care settings.

      They nurture and care for patients.

      If you’re passionate about Clinical Practice, you may enroll in a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Program to refine your passion and gain the knowledge to treat patients.

      The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) states that CNSs combine research and theory to enhance wellness and develop Nursing Care.

      It means you can’t be a CNS without adequate training.

      Overview of Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs

      CNSs are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor in Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.

      They receive training in a given specialization and learn more about Pharmacology, Health Assessment, and Pathophysiology.

      But beyond these CNS Degrees, you also need practical knowledge in other areas before licensure; hence, State Nursing Boards require applicants to enroll in relevant programs.

      We’ll concentrate on the best programs to help you achieve your Advanced Practice Nursing dream.

      The Importance of Clinical Nurse Specialist Program Accreditation

      CNA Week Gift Ideas

      Whether you want to enroll in a Baccalaureate, Master’s, or Doctoral Degree Program in Nursing, ensure that the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) has accredited it.

      Another reputable accrediting body for Nursing Programs is the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

      Thus, if either of these organizations doesn’t accredit your proposed program, don’t proceed with it.

      Accreditation is an official stamp of a Program’s standard.

      Accreditation helps Clinical Nurse Specialist schools demonstrate excellence in teaching and research because they must meet a predetermined standard.

      Accredited onsite and online CNS Programs are inclined to Evidence-Based Practices to sharpen their participants’ competencies.

      Hence, accreditation of Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs has ensured improved patient outcomes.

      Accredited CNS classes include practicum and theories.

      Without minimum standards, many institutions would subvert the process and ultimately jeopardize Healthcare systems.

      Accreditation is a symbolic foundation upon which standardized patient care is built.

      Henceforth, your first preoccupation before enrolling in a CNS Degree or MSN Program is its accreditation status.

      List of Accredited Online Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs

      List of Accredited Online Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs


      Enrollment Option


      Clinical Hours


      DeSales University


      Adult-Gerontology Acute Care

      525 Hours

      45 Credit Hours

      California State University, Dominguez Hills





      500 Hours

      43 Credit Hours

      Loyola University Chicago



      Adult-Gerontology Acute Care

      505 Hours

      38 Credit Hours

      Kent State University



      500-700 Hours

      35-42 Credit Hours

      Indiana University–IUPUI




      525 Hours

      42 Credit Hours

      East Carolina University




      540 Hours

      43 Credit Hours

      University of Southern Indiana



      545 Hours

      42 Credit Hours

      University of South Alabama



      540 Hours

      38 Credit Hours

      University of Detroit



      500 Hours

      41 Credit Hours

      University of Missouri-Columbia, MU Sinclair




      660-780 Hours

      46 Credit Hours

      Old Dominion University



      Adult-Gerontology Educator or Administrator


      504 Hours

      47-52 Credit Hours

      Michigan State University



      585 Hours

      54 Credit Hours

      University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus



      540 Hours

      47 CH

      All the institutions mentioned offer Adult-Gerontology CNS specialization; thus, you now have a clear perspective of where to pursue your CNS Degree Programs.

      While most of these institutions offer online CNS Certificates and Master’s Degree Programs, just a handful of them run DNP Programs.

      However, the Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs California offers encompass the major specialty areas—Pediatrics, Gerontology, and Neonatal Nursing.

      It’s one of the best places to pursue your Clinical Nurse Specialist Degree.

      Clinical Nurse Specialist Certificate Programs

      Clinical Nurse Specialist Certificate Programs

      After your BSN Program, you must earn an RN license before practicing.

      But if you want to transcend to an advanced Nursing role, you must earn additional certifications and licenses to prove you’ll uphold industry ethics.

      Many states require that you acquire specialty-focused credentials after your MSN Clinical Nurse Specialist Program before being certified.

      Accreditation of Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs has ensured improved patient outcomes

      The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) are the leading certifying bodies.

      They offer the following certifications:

      Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist (AGCNS-BC)

      The ANCC awards the AGCNS-BC credential to its participants to demonstrate Adult and Elderly Care Expertise.

      This certification broadens your understanding of the concepts learned during your Graduate Degree Exercise.

      Acute Care Adult-Gerontology

      The AACN is the awarding body of this credential.

      They use theories and practicums to teach Clinical Nurses to care for older adults and young adults.

      Acute Care Pediatrics

      The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses is also behind this credential, and it’s one of the best pediatric CNS Programs in the country.

      The coursework in this program helps Nurse Practitioners understand the best strategies for caring for children.

      Acute Care Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist

      The AACN Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist Program sharpens your knowledge in Neonatal Care.

      Apart from the ones mentioned here, there are other Certification Programs Nurse Practitioners can explore from their closets.

      They include Adult Health, Women’s Health, and Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs online.

      Additional Online Programs for Clinical Nurse Specialists

      Clinical Nurse Specialist Online Programs

      There are other numerous Critical Care CNS Programs online you can enroll in.

      These programs prepare intending APRNs for the rigors of the job ahead.

      They include:

      Accelerated Program

      Accelerated Programs build on your experience and prior education to hasten your Nursing education.

      For example, if you want to become a Registered Nurse from a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), you can either enroll in an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) course.

      Also, Registered Nurses without a Bachelor’s Degree willing to pursue a Master’s Degree can take the RN-MSN Accelerated Program.

      Post-Master’s Certificate Program

      You can also earn a Post Masters CNS Certificate online to bolster your career.

      Obtaining your credentials from a certification board helps you deliver specialist treatment to a given patient population.

      It also sharpens your decision-making ability and improves patient outcomes in your work settings.

      You may earn a CNS Certification in Primary Care, Women’s Health, Adult Health, and other specialized areas that will empower you to cater to patients across their lifespans.

      Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

      The DNP is the highest educational attainment in Nursing and the terminal point for Graduate Programs.

      If you want to hold executive-level positions and play advanced CNS roles, the DNP Clinical Nurse Specialist Program is ideal.

      While an MSN Clinical Nurse Specialist Program takes two years, DNP Programs take 2-5 years to complete.

      DNP Clinical Nurse Specialists ensure excellent patient care in the Healthcare sector.

      Factors to Consider When Choosing Online Clinical Nurse Specialist Schools

      Factors to Consider When Choosing Online Clinical Nurse Specialist Schools

      You must be strategic when choosing a School of Nursing because attending the wrong institution can mar your career.

      You’ll find a program that fits your schedule, learning needs, and plans with careful analysis.

      There are numerous Clinical Nurse Specialists Programs online you can enroll in

      Here are factors to consider in your search for a befitting school:


      Do you want an Accelerated or Conventional Program?

      If you feel prepared for the rigors of the CNS role, you may opt for the Dual-Degree or Accelerated Program to make you get started quickly.

      The Dual-Degree Program enables you to enroll in two educational programs simultaneously to broaden your expertise.

      On the other hand, the Accelerated Program is for those who have earned a Bachelor’s Degree in another field and want to cross to Nursing.

      Hence, your goals will determine the ideal school for you.

      Program Schedule

      Which institution will make your educational journey seamless even if life gets in your way?

      Which is ideal between Synchronous and Asynchronous Nursing Programs?

      Asynchronous Programs ensure study flexibility, and you don’t need to bother rearranging your schedule to fit into pre-arranged classes.

      Asynchronous programs allow you to work at your convenience and consider everyone in a group.

      However, if you like real-time conversations and pre-arranged classes, Synchronous Programs are best.

      If you’re still in a full-time Nursing role, the Asynchronous option might be the best for you.

      Program Duration

      Do you want a Full- or Part-Time Program?

      Enrolling in a Full-Time Program will make you finish on time, while a Part-Time Program takes longer, but you can be involved in other commitments simultaneously.

      You should also consider the financial obligation of each program type.

      Admission Requirements

      Before enrolling in a Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist Program or any other Nursing Program, you must meet some conditions.

      Generally, you need recommendation letters, an up-to-date resume, a convincing personal statement, official transcripts, and GRE scores.

      You also need a current and unencumbered RN license for an MSN Program.

      Every state or institution has a slightly different application method, GPA barest requirements, and testing scores.

      Hence, check your state Board of Nursing and preferred school website to know their specific requirements and deadlines to prepare ahead.


      Courses for an MSN studies include Advanced Pathophysiology, Global Health & Diversity, Care Management, and Health Care Information Systems.

      Other general aspects of CNS curricula include skills for providing direct diagnostic and care to patients.

      However, a specific curriculum depends on your preferred program.

      You can access the curriculum of most schools online; take your time to analyze them to see if they meet your intellectual demands.

      Clinical Hours Experience

      Any APRN or CNS Program that doesn’t include hands-on learning isn’t standardized.

      Standard Clinical placements give you practical experience in your roles.

      You gain real-life experience, fine-tune your skills, and understand the practical application of knowledge.

      Don’t enroll in any program that doesn’t prioritize Clinical experience.


      Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs Conclusion

      We’ve dissected Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs and how to get the best out of them.

      This piece is a masterful guide that helps you understand how to navigate your way through the educational requirements of Clinical Nursing.

      We emphasized the need to enroll in accredited institutions because you won’t be licensed to practice if you go through a substandard program.


      FAQs on clinical nurse specialist program

      What is a CNS Program?

      A CNS Program is an educational program for intending Clinical Nurses to train them on evidence-based practices. CNS Programs can be Degree or Certificate Programs. Most times, the Certificate Programs teach you the specifics of your specialty area.

      Is CNS a Degree?

      Clinical Nursing is a combination of Degrees and Certifications. You must earn a Master of Science in Nursing Degree and prerequisite certifications before licensure. However, stakeholders advocate a DNP Degree as the minimum degree requirement for Clinical Nursing.

      How do I become a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

      Meet the education requirements for a Clinical RN Program, acquire a relevant Post-Graduate Degree, and earn required certifications such as the Adult-Gerontology for Clinical Nurse Specialist—Board Certified (AGCNS-BC). All types of Clinical Nurse Specialists require you to earn a license before practicing.

      Can I become a CNA online?

      Yes, there are many online CNA Programs you can enroll in. Almost all institutions have moved their programs online for the convenience of participants. However, you must participate in onsite clinical hours to garner practical experience in your chosen specialty.

      How long does it take to become a CNS?

      It takes at least 5 years for someone new to Nursing to become a CNS. However, if you’re a Registered Nurse, you need 2 years to earn a Master’s Degree in your preferred specialty. You may also earn a DNP within 2-3 years to solidify your knowledge in the field.


      DeSales University


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      Nurse Beth

      Nurse Beth, Registered nurse (RN). Has more than 10 years of experience helping people get started in their nursing careers. She is an expert and helping people pass their CNA, NCLEX RN, NCLEX PN, HESI A2, and TEAS exams.

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