Certified Nurse Specialists’ Role in Achieving DSC Certifications


Certified nurse specialists play a crucial role in their institutions achieving Disease-Specific Care certifications – which can ultimately improve patient outcomes.

A Disease-Specific Care (DSC) certification from The Joint Commission not only can improve care for patients with cancer, but can also elevate the role of clinical nurse specialists, according to a presentation at the Oncology Nursing Society’s 46th Annual Congress.1

“Disease-specific care certification focuses to provide a framework work for continuous reliable care and gives proof your program meets standards and verifies improvement activity,” said Kathy Burns, MS, APRN-CNS, AGCNS-BC, of The Ohio State’s James Cancer Hospital.

The James Cancer Hospital is one of only 3 hospitals in the United States to receive DSC certification for acute leukemia.

“Basically, your program is doing what you are saying it's doing provides accountability decreases undesirable variations and care advances patient outcomes, endorses cultural excellence provides the community with a confidence that the program is providing the quality of care that it is marketing, and delivering objectives of the certification are a lasting commitment to Clinical Excellence for all of us,” Burns said.

Burns is also 1 of more than 72,000 clinical nurse specialists nationwide – a role that she says is vital in the healthcare arena.

“We drive practice change in the organization. advocate to improve patient outcomes mentor evidence-based practice projects, which I have to say is one of my favorites. we are required to take a course and [evidence-based practices] and then we are required to maintain those competencies. We collaborate on complex patient care issues with multidisciplinary teams throughout the system, promote standards and patient care and safety,” she said.

Clinical nurse specialists can also help their institutions achieve a DSC certification by recommending and implementing strategies to improve care and meet disease-specific indicators like:

  • Defining strategy to improve quality
  • Developing policies, procedures, results of tracers, and mock surveys to improve safety
  • Ensuring compliance with clinical practice and evidenced-based care

“Certification programs must demonstrate a systematic approach to care delivery and analysis,” Burns said. “Being at the table, we can help define strategies to improve quality.”


Burns K, Brown S. Disease Line Clinical Nurse Specialist: The Journey to Obtaining Disease-Specific Care Certification from The Joint Commission. Presented at: The Oncology Nursing Society 46th Annual Congress. April 20, 22, 27, and 29, 2021.

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