The clinical nurse leader (CNL) is a newer nursing specialty that was first developed to prepare exceedingly skilled nurses who are focused on improving quality and safety outcomes for patient populations. CNLs are registered nurses with a master's level educations. They work alongside a team of doctors, pharmacists, nurses, social workers, nurse practitioners, and clinical nurse specialists to develop quality improvement strategies, help plan and coordinate patient care, assess health risks, implement evidence-based solutions, and facilitate team communication. CNLs shouldn't be confused with Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS). Where CNSs have advanced knowledge and clinical skills in a niche area of nursing, CNLs have advanced and broad knowledge in the field of medicine and often manage, advise, and counsel nursing staff while acting as a resource for the wider healthcare team.
Job tasks that are carried out by clinical nurse leaders (CNLs) may include:
As advanced nurses, CNLs can work in a variety of medical settings. Common CNL employers include:
Individuals who are considering a career as a clinical nurse leader should be problem-solvers with strong critical thinking abilities. They should be truly motivated to make a difference in the healthcare outcomes of patient populations. Dissimilar to other leadership positions in the nursing field, CNLs are patient-facing, so they should be excellent communicators and should enjoy interacting with both patients, fellow nurses, and other healthcare staff.
Not only are clinical nurse leaders required to hold an active and unencumbered RN license in addition to having some experience in the field, but they also need an MSN in Clinical Nurse Leadership to be eligible for the clinical nurse leader certification.
The overwhelming majority of clinical nurse leader positions require candidates to have obtained their Clinical Nurse Leader Certification which can be acquired through the American College of Colleges of Nursing's Commission on Nurse Certification which is an arm of the AACN.
To be eligible to take the 140 multiple-choice question clinical nurse leader certification exam, candidates are required to have the following:
CNLs are required to renew their certification every 5 years.
The clinical nurse leader represents a newly emerging and increasingly important advanced nursing role. For the foreseeable future, it isn't difficult to tell that there will be a significant demand for CNLs who will assist in improving patient safety as well as patient outcomes while at the same time enacting cost-efficiency measures and important leadership for nursing institutions.
According to PayScale, the median annual salary of a CNL is approximately $76,000, but this figure ranges between $52,000 and $107,000. Factors that will greatly influence the salaries of CNLs include things like educational credentials, years of clinical experience, the geographical location of employment, and the employing organization. The same factors will play in a role in the employee benefits packages that CNLs will receive from their employers. Most CNLs, however, will receive employee benefits packages which include medical, vision, dental, and more. Most employers will also provide CNLs with some paid time off each year - usually a few weeks.