FAQ for the AG-CNS Program

Here you'll find answers to frequently asked questions about the Adult-Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist (AG-CNS) program at University of Detroit Mercy.


Detroit Mercy's McAuley School of Nursing offers the MSN with a major (e.g. AGCNS). You will graduate with an MSN and have the following options:

  1. to begin practice as an APRN in the CNS role immediately after graduating and passing the national certification examination, and/or
  2. the opportunity to return or continue on in our all on-line DNP program or seek out the PhD in nursing for a research role.

How many credits are in the CNS master’s program?

The AGCNS program credits are 39 credits for the MSN. We made certain that if a student is on financial aid, that the required number of credits (4.5) is available every semester.

Course Plan

The AGCNS program at UDM has different options for study based on student need. Those options are shown on this website. However, students can have other flexible plans that might at times include one course a semester based on need. Students generally follow the part-time plan or the post-graduate certificate plan if applicable.

The core sequence includes the advanced P courses (pathophysiology, physical assessment, and pharmacology) and other essential master level courses for master’s students. A gap analysis is applied to all post-graduate students with the opportunity to transfer in courses such as Advanced Pathophysiology or Advanced Pharmacology.

The AGCNS courses and clinical hours are at the end of the program. Before any CNS courses, students must have taken the advanced P courses. Those courses equip students with the knowledge they need to be independent clinicians and to practice as such in clinical settings with supervision.

Newly admitted students – email and online portal

All students are provided a Detroit Mercy email account. A Detroit Mercy student email account is kept active during the student’s entire academic career at the university. To access the email system, please log in to https://portal.office.com.  For most students, your usernames and passwords will be provided to you by the Admissions office once accepted. If you do not receive them at that time, they will more than likely be sent by postal mail to your address of record in a letter from the Admissions or Registrar’s office. Students must use their UDM email address from this point on. Students need to check their emails weekly too for important course or program information.

Time to completion of degree

The entire MSN program of study must be completed within 7 years of beginning. However, once a student begins their AGCNS clinical core sequence, the program must be completed within 2 years. The Post-Master’s AG-CNS must be completed with 3 years of beginning.

Academic progression

Students in the graduate nursing programs must maintain a B (3.0) average. A student who fails a graduate course in the program will be afforded the opportunity to repeat the course. A student who is unsuccessful in two graduate courses will be dismissed and may appeal the dismissal to remain. Please refer to the graduate program nursing handbook.

On-line and clinical locations

Many of our students prefer the individualized attention that we offer at Detroit Mercy. This is rendered in an on-line community format. Despite being virtual, the presence and attention on our professors to your individual needs makes the Detroit Mercy experience unique. Professors are only a click, telephone call, or Zoom meeting away.

Courses are on-line via Detroit Mercy's Blackboard (BB) system and at approved clinical locations. For the BB system:

  • The Firefox browser (free download) is the recommended browser for BB.
  • For any BB issues, help is available at 313-578-0580.

Typical schedule when in AG-CNS clinical core sequence

The clinical coordinator will assist students with their placements and students have access to our database which includes all our previous preceptors. Once a clinical site has been chosen, the student must get a “preceptor information sheet” completed and turned in to the clinical coordinator. Once the site is confirmed by the clinical coordinator, the student may make schedule arrangements with the preceptor. Students should factor in approximately 2 days per week (approx. 14 – 16 hours/week x 14 weeks) of clinical during those semesters and the inability to work full-time during these semesters.  

Clinical placements & how to find a preceptor

Students are given guidance well in advance of the first clinical rotation (winter semester – NUR 5749) to begin networking to identify a clinical site and preceptor. The type of sites that are appropriate for clinical placements include:

  • acute care, where the majority of CNSs practice,
  • primary care clinics,
  • long term care facilities, 
  • clinics for the underserved,
  • nursing homes,
  • urgent care and
  • other ambulatory sites.

All clinical placements must be approved by the CNS Clinical Coordinator first and then administrative staff via contracts. Contracts and compliance must be enacted between Detroit Mercy and the clinical site before students can begin clinical at that site. This process can take up to 4 months to process so students are encouraged to network and identify sites/preceptors when they begin the program.

Clinical requirements

Students will be required to register and pay for the ACEMAPP System once a year. Students will receive an email from ACEMAPP which will enable the student to register, upload required documents and complete the mandatory exams. All students will complete all ACEMAPP requirements prior to clinical site approval/attendance and maintain current compliance while in clinical courses, mandatory exams are completed annually.

Students must successfully complete a criminal background check which includes a urine drug screen. Students must have evidence of current CPR certification and meet all health requirements related to preventable disease. The Clinical Handbook and website provide more details.

Can I have a clinical at my place of employment?

You may have a clinical placement at the facility in which you work, however, it should not be on the same unit where you regularly work. This requires work on the student’s part to let colleagues & others know when they are in their work role and when they are in their student role. In the student role, students are always subject to the rules and regulations as such from both institutions. Your preceptor may not be a relative.

Types of employment this degree & certification prepare you for

The Detroit Mercy AGCNS program prepares you as a specialist in Adult-Gerontology APRN practice across settings to include a role in prescribing and billing for services. Most of our graduates work in acute care in specialty areas but we are seeing more interest among AGCNSs to work in non-acute care settings. This change in practice settings or movement across settings is highly encouraged by the NACNS.

Your specialties leaving this program are:

  • the AG-CNS role,
  • Advanced Older Adult Care and
  • Advanced Holistic Nursing.

You are trained as a Generalist AG-CNS overall and your skills will merge with your specialty or setting of choice in your CNS career. All students are expected to continue their transformation as experts in their specialty and/or setting post-graduation in a spirit of lifelong learning.

The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists is an excellent resource for students during and after graduation to continue to assist you in role development. 

Certification exam

In order to practice as an AG-CNS, students must pass a national certification exam following graduation. Graduates of the program are eligible to sit for national AG-CNS certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Association of Critical Care Nurses. Graduates are responsible for submitting their applications and transcripts.

Can I work while in the program?

Most of our students do work (either full or part-time) during their course of study.  Be mindful though, that this is a very rigorous program.  Evaluate your employment situation to determine if you will have the necessary flexibility and time to complete the program requirements. Part-time study equates to 18 hours a week.

Faculty certification

While in this clinical program, all of the faculty that instruct you maintain an active APRN certification as a CNS.

What to expect from here

You can expect lots of support in the program from professors and support staff. "Students first" is our mission! Never hesitate to reach out and ask for help: