Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) improve the health and well-being of patients, enhance the practice of nurses and nursing units, and improve the quality of health organizations and systems of care. The program will allow clinical nurse specialists  to pursue the formal education and certification necessary to support their title and role. Completion of the certification provides the academic credentials required for nurses to sit for national certification as a Clinical Nurse Specialist.

The 15 credits of required courses will be completed over three terms, fall, spring, and summer. 

Applicant requirements

  • Master's degree from an accredited nursing program
  • Current RN licensure in Wisconsin (or eligibility)
  • Completion of prerequisite courses (3 credits each) in physiology, physical assessment, and pharmacology with a grade of B or better. Physiology and physical assessment must be within the previous 5 years and pharmacology must be within 3 years. 


A complete application includes the following:

  1. An online application for admission as a University Special student, selecting UNCS Capstone Certificate and the program: Clinical Nurse Specialist–Adult/Gerontology. This application is received and processed by ACSSS with final decision held for approval from the specific capstone certificate coordinator. 
  2. Additional steps as required by the School of Nursing. 


Admitted students receive a formal letter of admission to UW–Madison from Adult Career and Special Student Services along with general enrollment information. Additional detail is provided on the ACSSS enrollment page

The School of Nursing will send an email to admitted students with specific information pertaining to enrollment in and completion of the capstone program. 

NURSING 726 Foundations for APN Clinical Practice I3
NURSING 727 Foundations for APN Clinical Practice II3
NURSING 728 Advanced Practice Clinical Application and Role Development I3
NURSING 729 Advanced Practice Clinical Application and Role Development II3
NURSING 702 Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Diverse Communities3
Total Credits15
  1. Integrate nursing science with knowledge from the biophysical, psychosocial, analytical, and organizational sciences as the basis for advanced nursing practice in the CNS role.
  2. Demonstrate advanced nursing knowledge of assessment and disease management in the adult-gerontological patient populations, including the use of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions to promote and maintain health.
  3. Demonstrate advanced levels of clinical judgment, systems thinking, and professional accountability in designing, delivering, and evaluating evidence-based care to support positive patient outcomes and systems of care.
  4. Strategically practice and demonstrate effectiveness within the hree spheres of influence that comprise CNS practice: clients, nurses and nursing practice, and organizational systems of care.
  5. Guide, mentor, and support other nurses to achieve excellence in clinical nursing practice.