Achieving DSC Certifications With Certified Nurse Specialists

Improving patient care may be possible for institutions achieving Disease-Specific Care certifications with certified nurse specialists at the helm.

According to a presentation at the Oncology Nursing Society’s 46th Annual Congress, improving care for patients with cancer and elevating the role of clinical nurse specialists may be achieved with a Disease-Specific Care (DSC) certification from The Joint Commission.

“Disease-specific care certification focuses [on providing] a framework 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, which 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. [It] provides accountability, decreases undesirable variations in care, advances patient outcomes, endorses cultural excellence, [and] provides the community with confidence that the program is providing the quality of care that it is marketing and delivering objectives of the certification [that] 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. [We] advocate to improve patient outcomes and mentor evidence-based practice projects, which I have to say is one of my favorites. We are required to take a course on [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 [and] promote standards on 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 strategies 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. Virtual