CNL | Clinical Nurse Leader

The role of a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) is the first new position in nursing in 35 years.

CNLs were first proposed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) in 2007 to help the American healthcare system which had been struggling for years to provide proper patient care.

Clinical nurse leaders are trained to look at the bigger picture of healthcare within a hospital or ambulatory care unit rather than simply providing day-to-day care or being responsible for managerial, fiscal or human resources tasks.

The Role Of A Clinical Nurse Leader

Because it is such a new position in healthcare, there are many misconceptions about the exact roles of a Clinical Nurse Leader. As a CNL, you’ll receive advanced healthcare knowledge and education in general medicine as opposed to one primary discipline like a Clinical Nurse Specialist.

The Clinical Nurse Leader Association (CNLA) defines a CNL as an advanced healthcare generalist with a micro-system focus. This is almost a mirror image role of a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), which is defined as an advanced practice specialist with a macro-system focus.

A CNL is responsible for co-ordinating the care of all patients on a medical unit and managing the unit’s team of licensed nurses, technicians and other health care professionals, while a CNS primarily looks after the day-to-day requires of patients.

A Clinical Nurse Leader Looks At The Bigger Picture

It is the responsibility of the Clinical Nurse Leader to oversee the integration of care for a specific set of patients as well as the medical team they work with in hospitals and ambulatory care clinics.

Together with doctors, pharmacists, social workers, nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists, CNLs help incorporate the latest technologies and innovations into treatment to give patients the best care possible. This includes patient and staff education, patient assessment, supervision of optimal protocols, and direct patient care in particularly complicated patient care.

Although the role of CNLs have only been around since 2007, they are already proving to be very successful. Units with CNLs have been shown to have shorter length of stay and readmission rates for patient. There have also been dramatic improvements in the quality and patient safety such as decreased fall and infection rates along with lower turnovers of Registered Nurses (RNs) from units.

In fact, these master’s degree-prepared nurses have been shown to have such a positive effect on patient care and the healthcare environment that Veterans Health Administration (VA) is committed to having a minimum of three CNLs at every one of its facilities by 2016.

Adding CNL positions prepare organizations to deliver better patient care by planning and and coordinating care across entire patient populations or service lines, working with the multidisciplinary healthcare teams and helping hospitals cut down on the length of time patients stay in hospitals.

With such a crucial list of responsibilities attached to the role of Clinical Nurse Leader, getting the right nursing education is critical. You’ll need to complete four years of study for your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

Another two years of study is then required to obtain your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree and also pass your CNL certification exam from the Commission on Nurse Certification.

Many universities in the United States now offer CNL programs. The degree requires 400-500 clinical hours and also contains advanced practice courses in clinical assessment, pathophysiology, and pharmacology.

As the role of a Clinical Nurse Leader continues to evolve and improve conditions for patients and healthcare systems, CNLs are becoming increasingly sought-after. Today CNLs can earn between $55,000 to $73,000 per year and salaries have been rising steadily in the past few years.