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CURRENT POSITION: Clinical Nurse Specialist, Stroke Management and Rehabilitation Team


CURRENT AFFILIATION(S): National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialist, American Association of Neuroscience Nurses, American Association of Critical Care Nurses




PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION: MSN, George Mason University, Fairfax, Va; BSN, St. Louis University, St. Louis, Mo


CERTIFICATIONS: Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, Board Certified, and Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse

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Susan Davis, MSN, RN, APRN, BC, CNRN, was selected as the 2006 recipient of the Excellence in Neuroscience Nursing Education Award from the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses. The recipient of this award demonstrates excellence through innovative and creative approaches to education related to neuroscience nursing, including curricula development, academic instruction, clinical education, and professional development for local, regional, national or international audiences. The recipient is recognized as a role model and mentor who provides leadership in neuroscience nursing.


Describe what you believe are the most important aspects of the CNS role in regards to education.

The role of the CNS offers many opportunities for teaching, whether formal or informal: education at the bedside, education in a classroom, or anywhere and anytime the opportunity arises. I have been an advocate for education for over 30 years, empowering nurses with knowledge to provide the best care for their patients. The educational competencies of the CNS role facilitate CNS advocacy for education among patients and their families as well as nurses and other healthcare providers.


What first motivated you to become a clinical nurse specialist?

As a young staff nurse in a neurosurgical ICU, I had an intense interest to learn as much as I could about my patient's pathophysiology, symptoms, and procedures. I was frequently sharing what I had learned to my coworkers, and through these informal encounters, I informally became the unit educator. I thought then, as I do now, that education can result in better caregivers. While I was working as a staff development educator, the director of nursing told me I had so much more to offer but needed to get a master's degree. It was during these conversations with her I started to think what focus I should take if I went to graduate school. Since I enjoyed clinically focused education and its link to improved patient outcomes, I realized that I would be able to maintain these goals if I became a CNS as opposed to pursuing an educator or management track. I initially focused on completing a dual CNS and NP program; however, as I progressed through my courses, I realized that my real passion involved influencing nursing practice through fostering staff education and encouraging professional development among nurses and that this focus was more consistent with CNS practice competencies.


What, if any, professional or career issues did you face early in your career as a CNS?

It took me 14 years before I went back to graduate school, so I was fortunate not to have the issue of being questioned about my experience or knowledge base. What I did encounter was being in a position that was frequently under scrutiny for "effectiveness" or whether the CNS position was "necessary." CNSs are not "revenue generators" in the traditional sense of billing for services, so the position seemed to be always at risk for being on the chopping block with budget cuts. With the recent focus with Magnet accreditation and its emphasis on improved nursing-sensitive outcomes, I believe the CNS role has more stability.


What do you perceive are the key issues for clinical nurse specialist practice today?

The issues that the clinical nurse specialist faces today include documenting performance and outcomes, keeping focused on nursing practice, and fighting the tendency to get pulled into non-CNS roles. Another concern is the titling issue for the advanced practice nurse. This issue rests with the state boards and the credentialing organizations, the requirement or standards are not consistent.


To date, what do you perceive as your greatest accomplishments as a clinical nurse specialist?

My greatest accomplishment as a clinical nurse specialist is being a mentor and role model to so many people. I have had nursing students who have said they stuck it out because I had told them they would be a great nurse-and now they are great nurses. I have had staff members that have said I made complex topics and procedures very understandable. I am honored to have had the ability to make a difference in the professional practice of nurses (and their lives).


What do you enjoy or value most about the role of a clinical nurse specialist?

I am able to provide patients, families, and staff with the evidence-based information to help them understand their illness or treatments, counsel and comfort during stressful events, and enjoy with them their successes. Not many people can say that they are a cheerleader, mentor, and shoulder for individuals during their successes and failures.


What advice would you give a new clinical nurse specialist starting out in this role?

The advice I would give a new clinical nurse specialist is to make sure you have a mentor. There are many issues that arise, and someone experienced in the role can help the new CNS explore the issues and approach to resolution. In addition, a new CNS needs to have a goals and a plan and to remember not to take on too many assignments or projects. When exploring opportunities, match your knowledge and skills with the opportunities and don't take on projects that may be overwhelming.