Sample Clinical Nurse Specialist Curriculum

Subjects are representative of a graduate nursing core curriculum. Subjects in red are specific to an advanced practice nursing track.


Perioperative implications

Recommended activities


Ethical issues e.g., Do-Not- Resuscitate (DNR)

Fair and equitable dispensation of finite resources

Serve on hospital ethics committee/IRB

Assume accountability for practice

Serve as consultant for patient advocacy issues

Nursing theory

Appropriate theories (e.g., natural, social, organization, biological) to serve as a foundation for perioperative patient care

Apply appropriate theories from nursing and related fields to guide health care delivery system

Health policy/social issues

Healthcare trends

Legislative issues (e.g., healthcare reform, reimbursement, state regulations regarding CNS licensure, certification, and scope of practice)

Changing demographics, cultural/racial/ethnic/gender diversity of patient population

Attend legislative hearings related to scope of practice issues

Evaluate local/state/national socioeconomic and health policy issues and trends

Articulate health policy concerns and the significance of advanced practice nursing role to elected/appointed officials

Serve on boards or task forces that influence health policy, e.g., state nurses' associations and/or professional organizations

Provide age and culturally competent patient care


Resource for multidisciplinary staff/physicians

Activities that improve health outcomes

Professional practice advancement

Chair department/hospital committees

Provide education for other departments (e.g., med-surg unit, PACU)

Mentor/precept staff and students

Serve on national/state/regional professional associations

Research/ Data analysis

Patient outcomes

SCIP initiatives

Dept. research projects

Evidence-based practice

Problem identification

Evaluate and summarize data collected through formal and informal channels (e.g., QI audits, chart review, etc.).

Develop and implement journal clubs, nursing grand rounds, and other forums for disseminating evidence-based practice principles

Author/co-author articles on best practice and submit to peer-reviewed journals

Submit podium or poster abstracts to local, state, or national conferences

Develop tools to collect and analyze data related to improvement of patient outcomes

Clinical application of research as expert practitioner

Grant writing

Role in health system

Health care resource management

Perioperative planning/architectural design for new build or remodel

Care delivery models

Fiscal accountability

Product review, analysis, and recommendations for purchase of perioperative equipment or supplies

Administer high quality patient care based on a variety of delivery models (e.g., managed care, integrated care, accountable care organizations, etc.)

Provide input on cost-effectiveness of services/products

Symptom management

Patient care

Development of clinical pathways for high risk/high volume patient surgical specialties

Initiate changes to healthcare delivery

Develop strategies for incorporation of research into treatment regimen

Develop and monitor comprehensive plan of care that addresses health promotion

Advanced Pathophysiology

Physiologic responses to surgical experience

Health promotion/disease prevention

Effect of changes in normal functioning to perioperative plan of care

Expert clinician

Provide staff in-services on specific disease entities

Develop clinical pathways

Incorporate findings in management of care

Advanced Pharmacology

Pharmacotherapeutics/pharmacokinetics of medications prescribed during perioperative period

Effects of single/multiple drug regimens for perioperative patient

Liaison between pharmacy, physicians, and nurses in providing optimal patient care

Safely and appropriately prescribe pharmacologic interventions (based on scope of practice and prescriptive authority in individual state)

Discharge meds planning

Reconciliation between home and facility-administered medications

Advanced Physical Assessment

Current and relevant patient data


Referral agent

Communication/observational skills

Pre-operative assessment, including complete functional assessment, health history, physical examination, and appropriate diagnostic testing

Development of intraoperative plan of care which takes into consideration life circumstances and cultural/ethnic/developmental variations

First assisting

Discharge planning

Clinical hours/practicum

Minimum 500 hours with an appropriate preceptor in a CNS role

Clinical experience involving one or more of the 3 Spheres of Influence: Patient/client, nurses/nursing practice, and/or organization/system