Florence Nightingale: Visionary for the Role of Clinical Nurse Specialist

Jennifer H. Matthews, PhD, RN, A-CNS, FAAN; Phyllis B. Whitehead, PhD, APRN/CNS, ACHPN, RN-BC, FNAP; Cindy Ward, DNP, RN-BC, CMSRN, ACNS-BC; Marion Kyner, MSN, RN, CNS; Terri Crowder, DNP, RN, CNS, ACNS-BC, CCRN


Online J Issues Nurs. 2020;25(2) 

In This Article


The role of the CNS was created to meet increasingly complex and evolving needs of patients and communities. This resembles the mission undertaken by Nightingale and her vision of nursing. The CNS spheres of impact affect each aspect in patient care; nursing and nursing practice; and healthcare systems and organizations, reflecting Nightingale's work and beliefs about patient care, nursing standards, advocacy, and training. CNSs demonstrate their influence and impact on systems of care delivery, which resonates with Nightingale's vision of healthcare. Lord Dean Stanley stated Nightingale used her "commanding genius" (Andrews, 1929, p. 143) as she confronted the challenges of her era just as modern CNSs address the complexity of healthcare when providing quality services to rural and urban underserved populations, the aging and disabled, and patients with multiple chronic conditions. Just as Nightingale's aspirations were to always strive toward improvement and perfection and to make nursing a 'High Art,' the CNS endeavors to meet the nursing challenges of our patients, organizations, society, and profession. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1857) described Nightingale and her compassion the most elegantly as,

"A lady with a lamp shall stand.

In the great history of the land,

a noble type of good,

heroic womanhood."