1. Heye, Mary L. PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, RN-C
  2. Berndt, Andrea PhD
  3. Lehman, Cheryl A. PhD, RN, CRRN, CNS
  4. Stevens, Kathleen R. RN, BS, MS, EdD, ANEF, FAAN

Article Content


The purpose of this session is to discuss (1) available instruments used to assess evidence-based practice (EBP) competencies, (2) the use of the ACE Evidence-Based Practice Readiness Inventory (ACE-ERI) to assess CNS students' perceptions of EBP competencies, and (3) didactic EBP curricula changes in a CNS program.



Contemporary healthcare calls for clinical nurse specialists (CNS) who are able to critique existing practices, discriminate between alternative and conflicting information, and support the nursing staff to make evidence-based changes to improve patient outcomes. Core evidence-based (EBP) competencies developed during the CNS gradate program are critical skills to facilitate quality improvement in nursing practice.



In an effort to measure outcomes of changes made in a CNS curriculum related to EBP skills, the faculty reviewed several EBP competency instruments available for healthcare professionals and found that these instruments did not reflect specific CNS EBP competencies. The ACE-ERI was chosen based on (1) sound instrument reliability and validity data and (2) measurement of nursing EBP competencies at the undergraduate and master's levels. The ACE-ERI was administered across time to students in a CNS program, and changes in perceptions were evaluated based on changes to the curriculum that emphasized EBP competencies.



Essential Competencies for Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing (Stevens, 2005), a national consensus on nursing competencies for EBP, guided curricular changes that emphasized CNS and master's-level EBP skills. The ACE-ERI was administered to CNS students in the Critical Care and Medical-Surgical CNS majors at 3 points to assess perceptions in EBP competencies related to primary research, evidence summary, translation, integration, and evaluation.



Cohort 1 showed large and small changes in the individual ACE-ERI scores over time, and cohort 2 data are being analyzed.



The preliminary results show a trend of increasing confidence in EBP competency over time that support changes in the CNS curriculum.


Implications for CNS Basic and Continuing Education:

As educators develop innovative teaching strategies to facilitate transfer of EBP competencies to EBP clinical initiatives, valid instruments are needed to evaluate the outcomes of curricular changes and to document the competencies of CNS students. Implications for educational research-based "essential" EBP competencies (Stevens, 2005) and the new National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialist Core Competencies (Baldwin et al., 2009) will be discussed.


Section Description

The 2010 National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) Annual National Conference is planned for Portland, Oregon, on March 3 to 6. More than 375 clinical nurse specialists (CNSs), graduate faculty, nurse administrators, nurse researchers, and graduate students are expected to attend. This year's theme, "CNS as Internal Consultant: Influencing Local to Global Systems," demonstrates the breadth and depth of CNS practice and leadership at multiple levels in organizations and on healthcare.


A total of 142 abstracts were submitted for review, and 58 (not including student posters) were selected for either podium or poster presentations. Again, this year, there is a CNS student poster session; student abstracts will appear in a later issue of the journal. The abstracts addressed CNS practice in all 3 practice domains as described in the Spheres of Influence Framework for CNS Practice. Abstracts emphasized patient safety and quality care outcomes, leadership, CNS education, evidence-based practice, and new ways to shape CNS practice. Topics include CNS work activities incorporated into the 3 Spheres of Influence, the role of the CNS in developing clinical inquiry skills among staff nurses, use of simulation technology, strategies to maintain clinical excellence, the role of the CNS in National Database for Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI) activities, and many new and thoughtful ideas to support CNS education, practice, and research. Collectively, the abstracts represent the breadth, depth, and richness of the CNS's contribution to the well-being of individuals, families, and communities, as well as contributing to the advancement of the nursing profession.


The conference abstracts are published to share new knowledge with those unable to attend the conference. As you read each abstract, appreciate the intellectual talent and clinical scholarship of your CNS colleagues who are advancing the practice of nursing and contributing to the health of society through improved outcomes for patients and healthcare organizations. We encourage you to contact individual presenters to network, collaborate, consult, or share your thoughts and ideas on the conference topics.


Watch for next year's call for abstracts and consider submitting for presentation at the next NACNS annual conference scheduled for March 9-12, 2011, in Baltimore, Maryland.