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Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), Master's


As change agents in the health care system, a CNS is instrumental in addressing issues of quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness in healthcare systems. 

The Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS):

  • is an expert in a clinical field
  • has strong educational skills to teach nurses in the hospital and in academia
  • leads research efforts to promote evidence-based care

The CNS interacts with the health delivery team in care delivery, staff development, and research in order to promote evidence-based care in the select population. The CNS drives practice changes on a systems level with the intention of achieving the best patient outcomes.

The "Three Spheres of Impact" are three domains of practice:

  1. patient/family (direct care)
  2. nursing/nursing practice (direct care)
  3. organization/system (indirect care)

More agencies and networks are utilizing the expertise of the CNS to assist in outcomes improvement research and process implementation.

  • Our program is offered in both full- and part-time settings through an online, in-class, or hybrid format.
  • Our students complete clinical requirements in our network of nationally-ranked clinical facilities throughout the Lehigh Valley and beyond.
  • You'll experience a broad range of clinical settings including hospitals, long-term care facilities, and education-based clinical experiences.

Upon graduation, CNS graduates are eligible to take the Adult-Gerontology CNS certification examination offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Full-time or part-time class schedules

  • Full-time students can complete the program in two calendar years (dependent on seat availability in the desired track)
  • Part-time students can complete the program in three calendar years

Online or hybrid/Flex courses*

  • Complete core courses completely online or in hybrid/Flex format
  • Advanced core and specialty/clinical courses are in a hybrid format
  • Hybrid/Flex courses meet, at most, one night per week from 5-9pm at the Center Valley campus

*Online courses may be either completely asynchronous or utilize some synchronous online meetings, depending on course

Important Program Information

Admissions Requirements

MSN Admissions Requirements

  • Baccalaureate degree in nursing from an ACEN or CCNE accredited institution with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale.
  • An active registered nurse license or eligibility for licensure in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. New Jersey licensure as a registered nurse is also required prior to beginning the clinical sequence for all MSN programs.
  • Evidence of the equivalent of 12 months full-time nursing practice within the last three (3) years
  • For the Post-Graduate Certification Programs, evidence of a minimum of one (1) year of experience as a practicing licensed registered nurse within the past two (2) years

How to Apply

*For applicants who do not meet the minimum GPA requirement, completion of the GRE or MAT will be required to be considered for admission to the program

*International applicants (regardless of citizenship) for whom English is a second language must submit English proficiency test scores (TOEFL, iBT, IELTS, or CAE) as part of their application. An official copy of test results must be sent by the testing agency directly to the Division of Nursing at DeSales University, 2755 Station Avenue, Center Valley, PA 18034. Visit the following websites for up-to-date information:

* All exams must have been taken within two years of application to a DeSales program.

MSN degree applicants are admitted on a rolling basis up until the following deadlines:

  • The deadline is May 15 for a July (Summer semester) start
  • The deadline is June 15 for an August (Fall semester) start
  • The deadline is November 15 for a January (Winter semester) start
  • The deadline is February 15 for an April (Spring semester) start

The admission process and entrance requirements are rigorous; demonstrating minimum admission requirements does not guarantee acceptance into the MSN program.

Additional Requirements for the CNS

  • Students with less than one year’s experience will be required to continue to work as a registered nurse to fulfill the 1 year of nursing practice experience required to progress to the specialty clinical courses. 


The curriculum for the Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist program combines an exciting blend of theoretical and applied learning.

Core Graduate Nursing Courses

  • NU 522: Health Policy, Organization, and Financing
  • NU 530: Applied Research
  • NU 534: Principles of Epidemiology & Biostatistics
  • NU 536: Clinical Prevention in Population Health
  • NU 538: Health Informatics, Quality and Safety

Advanced Practice Nursing Core Courses

  • NU 622: Advanced Physical Assessment
  • NU 626: Pathophysiology
  • NU 628: Advanced Pharmacology

Specialty/Clinical Practicum Courses

  • NU 550: Theories of Teaching and Learning
  • NU 631: Adult-Gerontology CNS I
  • NU 722: Adult-Gerontology CNS II
  • NU 723: Adult-Gerontology CNS III
  • NU 799: Capstone Portfolio

CNS Curriculum Summary

  • 12 Courses plus Portfolio
  • 45 credits
  • 75 Clinical Laboratory Hours
  • 525 Clinical Practicum Hours

*View all required courses, course credits, course descriptions, and program outcomes in the Graduate Catalog.

CNS Concentration Student Learning Outcomes

At the completion of the CNS Program graduates will:

  1. Integrate Christian humanism in advanced nursing practice that values and facilitates full human development via partnerships with individuals and population. [MSN Program Outcome # 1] 
  2. Provide collaborative evidence based care to support and improve patient and population health outcomes using nursing science, theory, and knowledge generated by nursing and related disciplines. [MSN Program Outcome # 2, 3, 4, 5]
  3. Utilize specialized expertise in providing consultation to impact health outcomes. [MSN Program Outcome # 2, 5, 7, 9]
  4. Collaborate with patients and members of the healthcare team to identify expected outcomes that are consistent with the patient's capabilities, values, culture, and environment. [MSN Program Outcome # 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10]
  5. Apply knowledge of organizational theories and systems to provide safe, patient-centered, high quality, cost-effective care. [MSN Program Outcome # 1, 3, 5]
  6. Collect and analyze patient data to document the impact of nursing practice on outcomes, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness guided by principles of technology, quality improvement, and safety. [MSN Program Outcome # 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10]
  7. Provide systems leadership to manage change, to influence clinical practices, and to impact political processes. [MSN Program Outcome # 6, 7, 8, 10]
  8. Collaborate and coordinate within and across spheres of impact to optimize patient safety, culturally sensitive care, and clinical excellence. [MSN Program Outcome # 3, 7, 8, 9]
  9. Contribute to the advancement of the profession through teaching, mentoring, and coaching across all spheres of impact, including other disciplines and organizational leadership. [MSN Program Outcome # 5, 7, 11]
  10. Contribute to optimal patient outcomes through the interpretation, application, translation, and dissemination of evidence based research. [MSN Program Outcome # 3, 4]
  11. Engage in the Implementation and promotion of ethical decision making in resolving concerns across the spheres of impact. [MSN Program Outcome # 1, 2]
  12. Contextualize a personal philosophy and plan for lifelong learning to support advanced nursing practice. [MSN Program Outcome # 1, 11]

Academic Catalog


DeSales University is home to some of the most advanced simulation technology in a university setting.

Simulation captures the key characteristics and behaviors of real life clinical events and gives students the opportunity to practice clinical skills, repeat procedures, fine-tune processes, and observe the impact of their choices — all without harm to patients. 

Human Patient Simulator Lab

The DeSales family of Human Patient Simulators (HPS)

HPS, also known as high-fidelity manikins, are life-like models of the human body with software/computer equipment components to mimic human bodily functions. The HSC maintains several HPSs, including a pregnant mother and new-born infant.

Clinical Skills Lab 

Our clinical skills suite provides both a 12 bed in-patient and a 12 bed out-patient practice environment. Students can practice a wide variety of clinical skills with low fidelity mannequins. Task Trainers help students gain expertise in technical procedures and clinical skills such as foley catheter placement or pelvic examination for undergraduate students and more advanced skills such as central line placement or peripheral IV insertion, for our graduate students.

Standardized Patient Program

This on-campus suite replicates a functioning healthcare office, complete with a waiting room, and 8 fully equipped examination rooms. Standardized Patients are real people who are specially-trained to portray different patient scenarios, where they are treated as real patients by DeSales students. They actively participate in the instruction, practice, and assessment of the physical examination skills of our students, nurses, and physician assistants. Become a standardized patient 

Education Management

Our Education Management Solutions, Inc. system (EMS) provides a comprehensive solution for the labs;. Digital AV software and hardware allow faculty to capture both the simulations and standardized patient environments for further review. The results provide a digital video record of individual and team performance, which assist in evaluating a student’s performance when faced with realistic clinical challenges.

Simulation Lab in Gambet Center at DeSales The labs in the Gambet Center are outfitted with audio-video technology as well as integrated simulation management and skills evaluation software to allow the instructors to manage clinical skills training and patient exam protocols.

Video: See the Sim Center in Action  


Tuition & Fees

Tuition and fees for the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) are as follows.

  • Tuition/credit hour: $975*
  • Laboratory Fee: $250**
  • Returned Check Service: $30
  • Graduation Fee: $120

*Tuition/credit hours listed are for 2024/2025 academic year. Tuition and fees are reviewed each academic year and are subject to change with notice.
**Average cost. Laboratory fees are due on registration.

View a comprehensive list of financial aid forms and graduate program information sheets

Tuition Deferment

DeSales University offers graduate students the opportunity to defer payment of their tuition when they will be receiving reimbursement from their employer or when they are eligible to receive financial aid. A copy of your employer's tuition reimbursement policy must be forwarded to the Treasurer's Office and/or all necessary financial aid paperwork must be filed with the Financial Aid Office before tuition deferment is granted. 

Tuition deferment is a privilege given to graduate students at DeSales and can be revoked if this privilege is abused. Please note that you, as the student, are responsible for payment of your tuition balance in the event that your financial aid/loans or employer reimbursement is not received by the Treasurer's Office.

Tuition Reimbursement

When a student is eligible for tuition reimbursement from his/her employer, written evidence of eligibility is required. The student is responsible for requesting this reimbursement from his/her employer. In cases where reimbursement is contingent upon successful completion of the course(s) and the student either withdraws or does not achieve a grade sufficient to warrant maximum reimbursement, the student is ultimately responsible for payment for the course(s).

Refund on Withdrawal

A refund of tuition payments will be made to a student who withdraws from a course. In all cases, credits will be calculated from the date the student completed the official withdrawal form, and the rebate will be based on the schedule shown below. 

Refunds apply to tuition only. If a student is allowed to enroll by use of the deferred payment procedure, any funds due the University are immediately due and payable upon withdrawal.

Withdrawal during the add/drop period is 100% of tuition refunded. The schedule below is for withdrawal after the first class after the close of the add/drop period. 

The refund policy is based upon the number of classes held up to 
the date of withdrawal.

  • Withdrawal after 1st class: 80% of tuition refunded
  • Withdrawal after 2nd class: 65% of tuition refunded
  • Withdrawal after 3rd class: 50% of tuition refunded
  • Withdrawal after 4th class: 25% of tuition refunded
  • >Withdrawal after 5th class: No refund

Available Scholarship Opportunities

Veteran & Military Student Discount Program

Beginning Spring of 2023, DeSales University will match the Federal Military Tuition Assistance Program (T.A.) of $250/credit, or $750 for a three-credit course. The TA match discount program will be available to students who are currently serving on military active duty, National Guard, Reserve service members, and to eligible spouses or dependents. Adult Studies students eligible for TA match discount program will receive a combined $1,500 course credit against an approximately $1,600 course cost.

For more information, contact the Office of Veterans and Military Services

*Veteran & Military discount match is not applicable for the Accelerated BSN program nor combinable with additional DeSales University discount offerings.

DeSales Simulation Lab

Simulation Lab

DeSales University is home to some of the most advanced simulation technology in a university setting.

Simulation captures the key characteristics and behaviors of real life clinical events and gives students the opportunity to practice clinical skills, repeat procedures, make mistakes, fine-tune processes, and observe the impact of their choices — all without harm to patients. 

Explore the Sim Lab

CCNE Accreditation

The baccalaureate degree program in nursing, master’s degree program in nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice program, and post-graduate APRN certificate programs at DeSales University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (

CCNE - Accredited

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Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)