Defining the Role and Career Potential of the Clinical Nurse Specialist

On episode 391 of The Nurse Keith Show nursing and healthcare career podcast, Keith interviews Dr. Phyllis Whitehead, PhD, the President of the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS). In the course of their conversation, Keith and Dr. Whitehead discuss the role of the CNS, how to become a CNS, and the goals of the NACNS to diversify the CNS profession.

Dr. Phyllis Whitehead is a clinical ethicist and clinical nurse specialist with the Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital (CRMH) Palliative Care Service and Associate Professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. She initiated the Palliative Medicine and Moral Distress Consult Services at CRMH, and is certified in pain management and as an advanced practice hospice and palliative care nurse.

Dr. Whitehead is an expert presenter on the subjects of pain and symptom management, opioid-induced sedation, moral distress, and patients’ end of life preferences. Her research interests include moral distress and improving communication with seriously ill patients, and her research has received funding from numerous grants.

In 2020, Dr. Whitehead was elected as a Distinguished Practitioner Fellow in the National Academy of Practice in Nursing. She is a graduate of Radford University where she earned her BSN and MSN, and earned her doctorate degree at Virginia Tech.

Connect with Dr. Phyllis Whitehead and NACNS:


Nurse Keith is a holistic career coach for nurses, professional podcaster, published author, award-winning blogger, inspiring keynote speaker, and successful nurse entrepreneur. Connect with Nurse Keith at, and on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

The Nurse Keith Show is a proud member of The Health Podcast Network, one of the largest and fastest-growing collections of authoritative, high-quality podcasts taking on the tough topics in health and care with empathy, expertise, and a commitment to excellence. The podcast is adroitly produced by Rob Johnston of 520R Podcasting, and Mark Capispisan is our stalwart social media manager and newsletter wrangler.

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