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The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) Annual Summit, an invitational gathering of professional specialty nursing organizations, accrediting bodies, certifying organizations and regulators, is held every summer for dialogue about important matters of concern to clinical nurse specialists (CNSs). This year's summit brought some very good news for CNSs interested in obtaining professional certification. NACNS and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) announced results of a collaborative project, a new CNS certification option. Clinical nurse specialist certification has been limited to a few specialties with large numbers of CNSs, such as mental health and adult health. Areas of practice with smaller numbers of CNSs lacked certification options because the specialty has too few CNSs to create and maintain a cost-effective, psychometrically sound certification examination. With state regulatory boards increasingly relying on professional certification as validation of practice competency, lack of CNS certification options became a barrier to practice. The new NACNS/ANCC certification is designed to validate a candidate's competency in the core CNS practice competencies and will be an option for CNSs practicing in specialties with no advanced specialty certification. The content expert panel for test development included CNSs from multiple diverse specialties, resulting in an examination that is comprehensive of CNS core practice across the life span and continuum of care.


Specialties are fluid because they arise from advances in science, technology, the changing nature of disease and treatment, and the public's expectations for health and nursing care. Specialties cannot be fully identified a priori, as new areas are always emerging. Genetics is a specialty area that has been evolving along with scientific discovery and technological advances. An examination of core CNS competencies will support future flexibility in the development of new CNS specialty areas as demand is created while ensuring professional validation of CNS core practice competencies.


The new certification option is not designed to replace CNS certification in established specialty areas currently offered by ANCC or other professional nursing organizations. Clinical nurse specialists practicing in specialty areas where CNS certification is available are expected to obtain specialty certification.


In launching the new core CNS certification, ANCC is creating a window of time for CNSs lacking some of the current eligibility requirements for established CNS certification options because they graduated before the requirements were in place. For those CNSs who have practiced or are practicing in the role but lack specific course content, clinical hours, CNS program designation, or other eligibility criteria, alternative criteria may be accepted until December 31, 2011. Until this date, ANCC will evaluate each candidate's evidence of having met the alternative criteria and determine certification eligibility. Beginning January 2012, this window for alternative criteria will close.


Don't wait! Don't procrastinate! Certification is individual validation of professional practice and a statement to the public about competency. Not all state regulatory boards require professional certification to be recognized as a CNS; however, it may change in the near future as states are moving toward more consistent rules and regulations. For reasons of personal fulfillment and professional recognition and in preparation for any future regulatory changes, get certified now. For more information, contact ANCC or go to


NACNS has advocated for expanded certification options for CNSs. By partnering with ANCC, the world's largest and most prestigious nurse credentialing organization, a new option was created. Now is the time to seek core CNS certification.