The United States healthcare system is complicated and is becoming overtaxed. With the passing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the aging baby boomer population and the need for more healthcare providers, there is no dispute the healthcare arena will be in a state of dynamic change for years to come.

The needs of patients have become increasingly complex, while the changes to healthcare are more than most can keep up with. Clinical nurse specialists have been meeting these complex needs for many years, and officials now recognize the need to better prepare these nurses to meet — and exceed the demands.

Recently, the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) announced its endorsement of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree as a requirement for entry into practice by 2030. Previously, the organization had supported the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or the DNP for preparation for a CNS. This change comes in the recognized need to meet the challenges faced by the healthcare system in the coming years.

The new endorsement also comes based on the recommendation of the 2010 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report "The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health." In their report, the IOM recommended to double the number of nurses with doctorate degrees by 2020. It also recommended nurses should be prepared and enabled to lead change to advance health.

The new endorsement by the NACNS seeks to fulfill these recommendations.

Clinical nurse specialists focus on one of three main specialty areas: patients and their families, nurse management and administration. With this unique skill set, the nursing staff looks to the CNS for guidance in their practice as well as aid in efficiency in patient care.

According to a recent census of CNSs, their role is far reaching across many aspects of healthcare. Approximately 59 percent work in a hospital-based setting, with the others in areas such as education and ambulatory care. Their practice duties range from direct patient care to teaching staff and assisting with evidence-based projects.

With a dynamic and unique skill set, coupled with an advanced degree, clinical nurse specialists are perfectly situated to meet the complex needs of our future healthcare system.