What is a Clinical Nurse Specialist?
An Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (AOCNS) is a member of the nursing profession with graduate-level expertise in the care of patients with advanced forms of cancer. The AOCNS specialist is involved in all aspects of care, from assessment to treatment to management of outcomes.
How Do You Become a Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist?
You’ll need to take a certification exam from a recognized certifying body. For several areas of CNS expertise, the most widely recognized credentialing body is the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation. They offer computer-based examinations at a number of locations around the United States. If you are 65 or older, discounts are available for the exam fee. After successfully taking the exam, you receive credentials as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Advanced Oncology (AOCNS), which is renewable after a specified period.
Who Is Eligible for the Certification Exam?
Not everyone is eligible to take the Oncology Nursing Corporation examination. You’ll need nursing credentials before applying for the exam. These include a current license as a registered nurse (RN), a Masters-level or higher degree from an accredited educational body, and 500 or more hours as a CNS in adult oncology supervised by faculty as part of earning your graduate degree or following graduation. When you are ready to renew your credentials, you will need a current certification as an AOCNS in good standing; a current, unrestricted license as an RN; and 1,000 or more hours as a clinical nurse in adult oncology. The 1,000 hours must fall within the four-year period prior to applying for renewal.
A Look at the Exam
The exam consists of 165 questions. Of these questions, 125 count toward the final score. (The remainder are questions being statistically tested for inclusion in future exams.) The questions on the test are based on a role delineation study of pediatric nurses, enumerating current roles and behaviors of nurses in the pediatric oncology field. They are divided into 11 areas:
- Screening, Prevention, Early Detection, and Genetic Risk (4 percent)
- Diagnosis, Staging, and Treatment Planning (8 percent)
- Cancer Treatment (16 percent)
- Side Effect and Symptom Management (18 percent)
- Oncologic Emergencies (9 percent)
- Survivorship (6 percent)
- End of Life Care (7 percent)
- Psychosocial Issues (10 percent)
- Coordination of Care (7 percent)
- Professional Practice (7 percent)
- Roles of the Advanced Practice Nurse (8 percent)