Adult-Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist

Adult-Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) are advanced practice registered nurses who ensure high quality nursing care through clinical expertise.

Program Information


Clinical nurse specialists are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who ensure high quality nursing care that is evidence-based and promotes patient safety, while improving patient outcomes and lowering health care costs. They plan this important role across a variety of specialties based on patient population, setting, condition or type of care.

Clinical nurse specialist FAQ

Support Courses

Students applying for a new certification must complete Advanced Pathophysiology, Advanced Pharmacology, and Advanced Physical Assessment Across the Life Span if the student has not yet taken them.

Clinical Experience

BSN to DNP students and MSN to DNP students adding a certification in a new specialty area must have two years of nursing experience in the area of Clinical Nurse Specialist prior to starting the clinical portion of their program.

Clinical Orientation

All students in the Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist track are required to attend a mandatory two-day Clinical Skills Intensive on campus during the first semester of CNS coursework in the fall term. The purpose of the Clinical Skills Intensive is to prepare students for the direct care component in the advanced practice role of the CNS. Basic clinical skills and simulation workshops will be held during the intensive.

Students enrolled in AHN 516, the first clinical course in the CNS track, are required to attend the Clinical Skills Intensive. Clinical orientation will be held online at the start of each clinical course throughout the curriculum. Please note the dates below are for Clinical Skills Intensives only. The coordinator for the CNS specialty track will provide full orientation dates:

  • Nov 6-7, 2019

The Clinical Skills Intensive will take place at USA College of Nursing. You will receive more information as the date approaches via your JAG e-mail. Please make plans to attend.

Clinical Affiliations

Specialty tracks within the College of Nursing’s graduate program require a practice component. Although faculty assists students in locating appropriate practice/clinical sites, it is the student’s responsibility to secure a site and preceptor if indicated. Students who are unsuccessful in being accepted by an agency in their home community may have to travel to another area to complete practice requirements. Please review the list of Clinical Affiliations on the College of Nursing Web Site. If there is not a clinical site listed near you or you are interested in a site not listed, negotiations should be initiated as soon as you begin the program through the Specialty Option Coordinator for your specialty.

DNP Residency

The program does not require a thesis or dissertation; however, students are required to complete an evidence-based scholarly project that has a substantial effect on health care and patient outcomes. Residency requirements for the scholarly project can be completed in the student’s home region with an approved mentor.


BSN-DNP students complete all support, MSN core, MSN specialty, DNP Core, DNP Project Planning & Development and Residency courses for a total of 62 credit hours.  Both MSN and DNP degrees must be completed within seven years. The MSN portion must be completed within the first five years of the program.

MSN-DNP students Adding a New Specialty must complete the support courses if they have not previously completed the courses in their MSN program.  They must complete the Dual Role specialty courses and support courses, if need, to complete the Post Graduate Certificate. The MSN Core, DNP core, and DNP Project Planning & Development and Residency courses are required for completion of the DNP degree.  This program is a total of 53 credit hours or 62 credit hours if support courses are needed. The Post-Graduate Certificate must be completed within two calendar years. The student has seven years to complete both the Post Graduate Certificate and DNP degree for this program.

MSN-DNP for Advanced Practice Roles must only complete the MSN core, DNP core, and DNP Project Planning & Development and Residency courses to complete the DNP degree. This is a total of 36 credit hours.  The student has a total of five years to complete the degree requirements.

Support Courses

NU 518 - Advanced Nursing Assessment 3 credits

NU 545 - Physio-pathological Basis of Advanced Nursing 3 credits

NU 578 - Pharmacology for Advanced Practice Nurses 3 credits

MSN Core Courses

NU 607 - Scientific Underpinnings of Advanced Nursing Practice 3 credits

NU 608 - Evidence-Based Practice and Quality Improvement in Health Care 3 credits

NU 610 - Healthcare Policy and Finance 3 credits

NU 613 - Organizational & Systems Leadership 3 credits

Adult-Gerontological CNS Specialty Courses

NU 515 - Clinical Concepts & CNS Role I 2 credits

AHN 516 - Adult-Geron CNS Practicum I - 180 Clinical Hours 3 credits

NU 516 - Clinical Concepts & CNS Role II 3 credits

AHN 517 - Adult-Geron CNS Practicum II - 180 Clinical Hours 3 credits

NU 517 - Clinical Concepts & CNS Role III 3 credits

AHN 518 - Adult-Geron CNS Practicum III - 180 Clinical Hours 3 credits

AHN 519 - Diagnostic Reasoning CNS - 60 Clinical Hours - ELECTIVE (4 credits)

DNP Core Courses

NU 611 - Translating Evidence Into Practice Systems 3 credits

NU 612 - Clinical Prevention and Population Health 3 credits

NU 615 - Quality Improvement and Outcomes Assessment 3 credits

NU 616 - Data Management & Decision Making in Complex Health Care Systems 3 credits

Adult-Gerontological CNS DNP Project Planning & Development and Residency

NU 600 - DNP Project Planning & Development 3 credits

AHN 635 - Adult-Geron CNS Residency I - 180 specialty clinical hours 3 credits

AHN 636 - Adult-Geron CNS Residency II - 180 specialty clinical hours 3 credits

AHN 637 - Adult-Geron CNS Residency III- 180 specialty clinical hours 3 credits


Please feel free to contact Dr. Chondra Butler for more information about this specialty: