Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialists

In the past, we have been best known for our Macmillan nurses. All our nurses are Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs). Find out what you need to become one and what the role entails.

The Macmillan CNS role

Macmillan CNSs are registered nurses, who have been educated to first degree level and have completed postgraduate learning or who are working towards postgraduate qualifications.

CNSs are clinical experts in nursing practice within a specialty area. The specialty may be focused on a population, such as young people; the type of care, such as palliative care; the type of problem, such as lymphoedema or a particular type of cancer, such as lung cancer (Excellence in Cancer Care: The Contribution of the Clinical Nurse Specialist, NCAT, 2010 [PDF]).

Macmillan CNSs provide leadership, innovation and expertise. This can be directly, when patients have highly complex care needs that require specialist assessment and care planning, or indirectly, by supporting and guiding others to provide care and support.

A CNS is required to maintain their specialist knowledge and skills and to be up-to-date with recent advances in research and practice development. Macmillan provides support for the CNS to maintain the highest level of practice through a number of resources and funding opportunities.

For further information and research about the impact of CNS posts, please see our CNS evidence review [PDF].

How to become a Macmillan CNS

Macmillan has developed a core job description and person specification to describe the skills, knowledge and behaviours required of a Macmillan CNS. The job description outlines the minimum requirements for all new Macmillan CNS posts, whether treatment-specific, site-specific or working within palliative and end-of-life care.

The content of the job description should be reflected in all new CNS job descriptions, although the format and language is likely to differ according to the employing partner organisation’s preferences. Additional local requirements may be added to ensure the relevance and impact of the post.

Qualifications and experience

The minimum selection criteria for a Macmillan CNS is:

  • a first level nurse registration
  • at least five year's post registration clinical experience, two of which must have been in cancer, palliative care or a specialty area
  • a first level degree in a related subject
  • specialist qualification in cancer, palliative care or a clinically related subject
  • evidence of specialist learning or an intention to work towards specialist learning.

Ideally, nurses applying for Macmillan CNS posts should have experience of working in community care, be able to demonstrate high level assessment and care planning skills or experience working in autonomous or semi-autonomous roles.

Often, practical experience is as important as formal study when preparing for a CNS career.

Some nurses may be appointed into a post but still require additional learning to enable them to practice at specialist level. Macmillan supports professionals identified as having development needs from the earliest stage of specialisation up to and including expert and advanced practice, through:

  • targeted resources on the Learn Zone
  • mentorship and coaching
  • advice and guidance on appropriate undergraduate or postgraduate study
  • grant funding to support the agreed learning and development needs.

Skills and competences

A Macmillan CNS is required to demonstrate a range of skills and competences to lead and develop a Macmillan service that is sensitive to patients and carers needs. They work closely within a multi-disciplinary team as well as providing consultancy for other health and social care professionals; all working to support people affected by cancer.

Working in partnership with Skills for Health, Macmillan has developed a Nationally Transferable Role (NTR) for Macmillan CNSs that outlines the competences required to fulfill the role. The Macmillan core job description for Macmillan CNSs, complements the NTR, by providing a competence framework based on National Occupational Standards and National Workforce Competences.

Macmillan CNS NTR [PDF].

Finding a vacant CNS role

As Macmillan professionals are employed directly through our partner organisations, all of our CNS and other clinical roles are advertised on the NHS Jobs website, as well as in health-related media and journals.