In this weekly feature, the editors of SpringBoard highlight one career in the health care professions–including a basic description, educational requirements, core competencies/key skills needed, and related web sites and professional organizations where you can find more information!


A child adolescent psychiatric mental health clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is an advanced practice nurse who works with children and adolescents with psychiatric problems, focusing on the individual client/patient with any presenting health problem. The advanced practice role is aimed at early intervention and treatment of children with mental illness, and includes use of a wide range of psychotherapeutic skills (e.g., individual, family, and group therapy). The child adolescent psychiatric mental health CNS practices in both inpatient and outpatient hospital settings and a variety of other settings such as clinics, schools, community agencies, day treatment facilities, and public health departments. Additional advanced practice activities include consultation to other professional and nonprofessional groups and education of other professionals, administrators, and researchers.


Registered nurse preparation and licensure; advanced practice licensure; and master’s, postmaster’s, or doctoral preparation in a CNS program in child/adolescent psychiatric mental health nursing are required. Advanced practice certification requires a minimum of 500 supervised clinical hours in the specialty. Certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center is available.


  • Advanced assessment skills
  • Advanced knowledge of pharmacology and pathophysiology
  • Ability to meet the child at his or her developmental level
  • Clinical skill in at least two psychotherapeutic treatment modalities
  • Ability to facilitate coordination and collaboration among agencies delivering care to children
  • Ability to provide services to children and their families
  • Flexibility and sensitivity


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