Master of Science in Nursing Program

Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist

Best Grad Schools by U.S. News Nursing 2019 Masters Degree

The Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) program at the University of San Diego prepares nurses for an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) role as an expert in the care of adults across a variety of health care settings such as hospitals and clinics, as well as their own private practice. Advanced practice as a CNS involves practicing nursing within the three spheres of influence (patient, nurse, organization system) in order to operationalize five CNS role components: expert practitioner, educator, consultant, researcher and clinical leader. As expert practitioner, CNSs provide direct and indirect care to specialized populations. As educators, CNSs teach patients, families, staff nurses, students, and communities regarding health. As consultants, CNSs assist with problem solving regarding patient care including facilitating support groups and establishing health care programs. CNSs also assist with research and promote research dissemination and evidence-based practice in the practice arena. As clinical leaders, CNSs are responsible for program development, quality improvement processes, and managerial operation and activities.

CNS students at USD are able to focus in different areas of adult-health such as critical care, emergency, medical-surgical and palliative care.  In addition, students may take elective courses in nursing education theory and teaching practicum as well as health care informatics.

Graduates are eligible for certification as Clinical Nurse Specialists in the state of California and for national certification by as Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialists by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN).

Total Units: 45

If you have any questions about the Adult-Gerontology CNS program, please contact Cathleen Mumper, Director of Student Services, at (619) 260-4548 or

Marissa Mackiewicz, MSN, CNS, RN

"Before I attended  USD's Open House I had never heard of "Clinical Nurse Specialists".  What was explained to me by USD staff truly engaged, fascinated and inspired me.  I was amazed by the variety and depth of information that was integrated into the Clinical Nurse Specialist curriculum and dreamt that as a CNS, I could do anything!  The opportunities for new experiences and career development excited and convinced me that this was the program for me.  Since graduating in 2012, I haven't been disappointed.  I was recently promoted to Director of Nursing, Geriatric Services & Research.  My experiences and education at USD prepared me to thrive in this role.  My experience at USD was so incredible, I couldn't stay away and am currently in the PhD in Nursing Program and graduated in 2018!"

- Marissa Mackiewicz, MSN, CNS, RN