The History of the Minnesota Affiliate, National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialist (NACNS) 

Ruth Lindquist, PhD, RN, ACNS-BS

The Minnesota Affiliate of NACNS has the distinction of becoming the first state affiliate of the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialist in 1999. The spirit of collaboration, commitment and shared concern for issues of nursing, patient care and advanced practice nursing-- particularly preserving and developing the vibrant role of Clinical Nurse Specialist in healthcare--has characterized the organization from the start. Having its start as local networking group in a small conference room on the campus of the University of Minnesota Hospital, Fairview, comprising 10 members of "The Minnesota CNS Networking Group",  it has grown to boast a mailing list of hundreds of CNSs across the State of Minnesota.

Formation: The Minnesota CNS Networking Group was formed in 1997, joining fellow APRN colleaques, the Minnesota Nurses Association, and the Minnesota Board of Nursing (BON) in crafting a new Nurse Practice Act related to Advanced Practice Nursing. CNSs played a pivotal role in assisting the BON with implementation of this legislation. Through this work, a closer link with CNSs nationally was established when the Minnesota CNS group had the distinction of formally becoming the first state affiliate of the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists in 1999. Since that time, the group was called the Minnesota Affiliate of NACNS. However, the purpose has remained largely the same: to provide a networking group: to improve communication amongst CNSs across the state; to develop peer understanding of the complexity of the CNS role in many settings; and to continue liaison work with the BON.

Mary Fran Tracy served as the first President: Niki Gjere was the first secretary. At the outset, there were no bylaws and there was no cost to join or to attend regular meetings. It was a requirement of the NACNS that 25% of local members were also members of the National organization. It was reasoned that if were aligned as state and national organizations, the local organization should at least have some as members of NACNS. There were 15 to 20 members to start, and included CNSs from the Mayo Clinic. Meetings were generally held Friday afternoons (1-3 pm). Telephone access to the meetings was added as a means to permit those outside of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan ear to join in on the meetings while avoiding the need to travel.  Content of the early business meetings covered topics such as active legislation. Later, topics were broadened to common concerns of CNSs (not diagnosis specific, for example, the CNS role and how to implement it. Content was very much focused on CNS role. Soon there were over 100 CNSs on the email list. Being on the email list comprised membership. More than 100 CNSs attended the annual conferences.

Evolution: In 2002, the Minnesota Affiliate of NACNS held the first annual conference. The first speaker was Sue Davison, President of NACNS Annual conference 2003 was held at Winona State University. National NACNS President Brenda Lyon came to the conference as the keynote speaker. The annual conference is a tradition carried forward to the present. This event has been a highpoint of the year for the 10 years during which conferences have been held.

The Annual Conferences address contemporary issues affecting healthcare and the CNS role. Content helps to develop attendees as advanced practice nurse leaders. Through attending the conference and through participation in the ongoing work of the organization, members learn how to form and lead an organization, and to "network" and connect at the national level. The organization keeps a watchful eye on legislation affecting nursing and healthcare; and it helps constituents to understand the BON role and regulations and State legislation.

Distinctions: In addition to the distinction of becoming the first state affiliate of the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialist in 1999, the Minnesota Affiliate of NACNS was honored as the "National Affiliate of the Year" by the NACNS in 2004. In 2010, Sue Sendelbach became the first Minnesota CNS to serve as the President of the NACNS. IN 2012, Carol Manchester became President-Elect of NACNS and served her term as president of NACNS in 2013-2014.

Minnesota has a strong CNS organization and its members continue to involved at the national level. The organization's past has been illustrious. Based on the accomplishments and foundation of the leadership traditions of the past, the future of the organization- and the role of CNSs in Minnesota- is bright. CNS members of the organization hold a key to the future development of the CNS role and the role of advanced practice nursing in the State of Minnesota. Their work, and the work of the organization, will guarantee that CNSs will help to shape and will have a significant role in the evolving healthcare system in Minnesota.



The Minnesota Affiliate of the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. 

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