The differences between a nurse practitioner (NP) and a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) can be subtle, but it is important to understand them when making your decision on which track to follow.
Put simply, NPs practice autonomously and collaboratively with other health care providers to perform assessments, order laboratory and diagnostic tests, diagnose, prescribe medications and treatments, and perform procedures within their authorized scope of practice. CNSs manage the care of complex and vulnerable populations, educate and support interprofessional staff to provide optimal care through use of best evidence, and facilitate a culture of safety within health care systems. NP and CNS roles are dependent upon individual attributes of the advanced practice nurse, the context of the practice setting, and characteristics of the patient population.
Both NPs and CNSs must obtain certification to practice from the appropriate certifying agency as well as state licensure as APRNs through their local Board of Nursing. Once certified, all advanced practice nurses will need continuing education and must be recertified every five years.
No matter your choice, the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing’s advanced practice programs can take you there.
similarities and differences
|Nurse Practitioner||Clinical Nurse Specialist|
Typical Practice Areas*
*CNSs and NPs may work in any of these settings, but these are the most common locations for each
MSN or DNP
MSN or DNP
*applicable to both CNS and NP but more common among NPs
**applicable to both CNS and NP but more common among CNSs
*DNP program available at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing
**Post master’s certificate available at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing
NPs must meet NONPF core competencies: 2014 and 2017
CNSs must meet NACNS core competencies.