DNP Clinical Nurse Specialist Major

The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), can have a significant impact on direct patient care and on both the effectiveness and efficiencies of health care systems across three spheres of impact: patients/clients, nurses, and systems/organizations. They diagnose, develop plans of care, treat, and provide ongoing management of complex patients. A CNS can prescribe medication, durable medical equipment, and therapies in many states. A CNS will also act as a consultant to other nurses and medical professionals, sharing their expertise in a particular specialty, a specific population, a type of illness, care setting, type of care, or disease. They are also able to identify and fill gaps in health care delivery, having the skills to design and implement interventions to improve delivery and outcomes. This type of practice is credited with reducing hospitalization costs and length of stays, lowering the number of emergency room visits, and increasing patient satisfaction.

Studies consistently conclude that the clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is a valuable healthcare resource, providing high-quality clinical and evidence-based nursing practice. This type of APRN is much sought-after, as hospitals and healthcare systems seek to improve care quality while lowering costs. CNSs are in demand for their abilities to enhance the quality of care and promote cost effectiveness at hospitals, private practices and clinics, home health institutions, and long-term care facilities.

Clinical Nurse Specialists also make excellent clinical faculty members in Schools of Nursing. The clinical expertise and experience with mentoring nurses is beneficial when working with nursing students.

The CNS Program at Pitt Nursing

Becoming a CNS involves learning to interpret research and translate that knowledge into practice while working with fellow nurses to develop more efficient and effective protocols.

The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists mandates the graduates must have achieved competency in direct care, consultancy, systems leadership, collaboration, coaching, research, and ethics. Coursework and hands-on learning opportunities in the DNP-CNS program cover care of patients and families in both acute and ambulatory settings. The three-year program includes courses from the APRN core including pathophysiology, advanced physical assessment, and pharmacology. Additional coursework supporting the CNS role includes the science of health care delivery, organizational and management theory, public policy, and ethics.

Two key components of the DNP program are clinical practicums and the culminating DNP project. Clinical experiences (a minimum of 1000 hours) take place in one of the world-class hospitals adjacent to the School of Nursing. The DNP project permits students to apply theoretical and practical knowledge gained from the three-year program to an actual problem or situation.

(onsite only)

Post-Master's DNP

Clinical Nurse Specialist

Clinical Nurse Specialist

  • Adult-Gerontology (onsite and online*)
    (*online option only available to applicants with a master’s degree in same focus)

Additional Resources

Accreditation Statement:

The Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education ( from 02/24/2014 through 12/31/2024

Clinical Nurse Specialist Licensure / Certification

Many US states require professional licensure/certification to be employed as a clinical nurse specialist (CNS). In addition to graduating from an accredited CNS program, in many states graduates must take and pass a recognized national certification examination in their area of preparation to be eligible for licensure/certification. Please visit for state-specific requirements.