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This paper considers the role ofthe clinical nurse pecialist (CNS) as portrayed in the literature. The historical development ofthe role is highlighted, rationale for preparation at an advanced level presented and controversy regarding placement ofthe CNS in a line or staff position outlined. Also discussed are the five commonly accepted sub-roles ofthe CNS (practitioner, educator, consultant, researcher and change agent) as well as a new role (staff advocate) which can be seen to be emerging in the literature. The author presents some of her observations of the role ofthe CNS at a large urban teaching hospital and concludes that congruence between the ideal role portrayed in the literature and the actual practice ofthe role is possible.