Clinical Nurse Leader

The Clinical Nurse Leader – A New Position for a Changing World
The clinical nurse leader (CNL) is the first new nursing position created in the last 35 years. Specialties have evolved to match the ever improving technology but nursing positions have more or less remained the same. Until now, this position is aimed at nurses who are dedicated to providing the best health care service for each patient and who can take the responsibility of implementing new procedures as well as evaluating the efficacy of standard protocols in terms of patient outcomes.

Clinical Nurse Leader Job Description & Scope of Practice

The clinical nurse leader is a very new job in the nursing field and as such, the duties are still evolving. However, the Clinical Nurse Leader serves as a coordinator in care for patients during a hospital stay. The nurse leader will assess special needs of the patient, and collaborate with the departments delivering the specific services so the patient receives the attention they require.

The clinical nurse leader evaluates patient care plans in terms of efficacy and efficiency. This individual will also help serve as a mentor and role model for newer nurses. One of the challenges faced by hospitals today is nursing staff turnover and having a leader trained in nursing able to communicate concerns and advocate for the patient as well as the nurses increases nurse retention.

A clinical nurse leader is usually the nurse who does regular rounds with the physicians. The role of a nurse leader is challenging and combines the role of the working nurse with that of a coordinating administrative position. Hospitals that have implemented this position have found that patient, doctor and nurse satisfaction usually improve.

How to Become a Clinical Nurse Leader

At one time the role of a Clinical Nurse leader was filled by a nurse with sufficient experience and the required personality traits deemed necessary for leadership. Today, though this role is filled by nurses who hold Master level degrees in clinical nurse leadership.

Clinical Nurse Leader Education Requirements, Certification and Schooling Programs

In keeping with the changing face of nursing more rigorous educational requirements are becoming the norm and positions of high responsibility will usually require an advanced degree as is the case with the job of the clinical nurse leader.

  • A BSN (bachelor of science in nursing is required)
  • An advanced degree in Clinical Nurse Leadership is highly recommended this is a 6 semester course and often accommodates working nurses. The clinical nurse leader is a generalist whose job is coordinating the various aspects of nursing and patient care to provide superior service delivery to patients.
  • To become certified as a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL), the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recommends certification through the Commission on Nurse Certification (CNC). Certifications are given through the AACN. In order to sit for the CNL Certification Exam, an applicant must be a graduate or be a student in their final term in a CNL education program or nursing school. To be considered for full CNL certification, the candidate must be an RN with a master’s degree or a post-master’s degree from an accredited CNL program. To obtain a waiver for these requirements and obtain the CNL certification, nurses must hold a graduate degree in health administration or public health and work as faculty on CNL education program at a nursing school. Applicants must also successfully complete an examination administered by the CNC. Nurse leaders do not have to obtain certification to fulfill their duties or secure employment, but it is highly recommended. The certification attests to the professionalism and expertise of the certificate holder, making it easier for them to compete with other job candidates. Those who earn the designation prove to employers that they possess the skills, knowledge and experience needed to expertly execute their CNL role.

Clinical Nurse Leader Salary and Career Outlook

Although the role of the clinical nurse leader is a new one the outlook is bright. The demand for cost effective and yet efficient healthcare has led to an increase in positions created for the nurse leader. The nursing field is projected to experience a very good rate of growth with a 21 – 35% increase in jobs for nurses until the year 2018.

The salaries for the graduate clinical nurse leader range around $55,000 per year. This rate of pay is not much over the rate of pay for a general RN. However, the career paths open to a clinical nurse leader graduate offer more choices in terms of settings, roles and career advancement.