Clinical Nurse Specialist Resources

"Whether practicing under the title of Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) or NP, Psychiatric-Mental Health Advanced Practice Registered Nurses share the same core competencies of clinical and professional practice."  

- Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice, 2nd Edition (ANA, APNA, ISPN, 2014)



PMH-CNSs are psychiatric-mental health advanced practice registered nurses (PMH-APRNs) with a Clinical Nurse Specialist certification. PMH-APRNs, whether CNS or NP, have received specialized graduate level education and are prepared to provide psychiatric and substance use assessments, diagnoses, and treatment, including medication interventions and psychotherapy.

Approximately 7,500 PMH-CNSs work across the US in a variety of settings as providers, educators, researchers, managers, and more. With the prevalence of mental health and substance use disorders, as well as a shortage of workforce prepared to address these disorders, PMH-CNSs play a critical role in ensuring access to needed care.

Key Points

  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Advanced Practice Nurses (PMH-APRNs) have 2 major certifications: PMH Clinical Nurse Specialist (PMH-CNS) and PMH Nurse Practitioner (PMH-NP).
  • PMH-CNSs and PMH-NPs have a shared scope of practice.
  • PMH-CNSs have prescriptive authority in more than 40 states. (See map)
  • About 7,500 PMH-CNSs practice under and renew their CNS certifications by meeting requirements set by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
  • PMH-APRNs earned certifications as Adult PMH-CNS or Child/Adolescent PMH-CNS by meeting stringent requirements and passing a certification examination administered by the ANCC from 1974-2016.


Inclusion of CNS in CARA 2016
Links and suggested text to help you support the position that PMH-CNSs should be included in the professions able to prescribe buprenorphine under the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

Position Paper: Psychiatric-Mental Health Advanced Practice Nurses
Statement and supporting evidence that PMH-APRNs (CNSs and NPs) share the same core competencies of clinical and professional practice.

Position Paper: Expansion of APRN Prescriptive Authority to Include Prescription of Buprenorphine

Calls for the expansion of APRNs' (CNS & NP) prescriptive authority to include the prescription of buprenorphine in the treatment of persons who are addicted to opiates.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice
Outlines the essentials of psychiatric-mental health nursing - the who, what, when, where, and how of practice - at multiple practice levels and settings.

IOM Report: The Future of Nursing
2010 Report from the Institute of Medicine, whose recommendations include that "nurses should practice to the full extent of their education and training" and that restrictive barriers on APRN scope of practice be removed.

State by State Practice Authority for PMH-APRNs
Interactive map which summarizes each state's regulations with regards to practice authority for PMH-CNSs and PMH-NPs. (APNA members only)

Provides further details about the education, scope of practice, and more for both PMH-CNSs and PMH-NPs.

Brochures About PMH-APRNs
Brochures to download, print, and use to educate the public and stakeholders about the profound impact the PMH-APRNs make in mental health and wellness through cost-effective, high-quality care

LACE Info & Resources
Background and resources on PMH-APRN licensure, accreditation, certification, and education.


The American Psychiatric Nurses Association is accredited with distinction as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation.