Clinical Nurse Leader

What Does a Clinical Nurse Leader Do?

The clinical nurse leader is a new role and certification that has emerged in the health care industry. They are repsonsible for overseeing the lateral integration of care for a very specific set of patients and can also actively participate in the care of those patients. They also put the latest medical technologies and innovations into practice to provide their patients with the absolute best care possible. Clinical nurse leaders collect and evaluate patient outcomes, assess risk and has the decision making authority when it comes to patient care and treatments. CNLs generally function as part of a medical team that includes physicians, pharmacists, social workers, nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialists. Clinical nurse leaders differ from clinical nurse specialists becuase they are considered advanced generalists rather than specialists. They have an advanced knowledge and education in general medicine rather than the many hours of experience in one primary discipline like nurse specialists.

How Can I Become a Clinical Nurse Leader?

Clinical nurse leaders are registered nurses with a four year bachelor degree in nursing, and must also possess an advanced degree, usually a Master’s Degree in the Science of Nursing. This is because they provide a higher level of care and responsibility beyond that of a registered nurse. For a list of approved clinical nurse programs, visit the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. CNLs are required to take advanced courses in pathophysiology, clinical assessment and pharmacology. Following the successful completion of the educational requirements, nurses are then eligible to sit for the clinical nurse leader certification exam. It is administered by Commission on Nurse Certifications, a separate branch of the AACN. Clinical nurse leaders must have strong leadership and management skills. They should also be able and willing to learn new techniques, procedures and the use of new technologies as they become available.

What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Clinical Nurse Leader?

The need for this new classification of care provider has beed addressed by various nursing and health care organizations. The outlook for this position is positive as they are highly trained and educated, provide a high level of care yet still cost less to employ than physicians. Because clinical nurse leaders are not as specialized as nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists, their annual salary is not as high. CNLs can earn from around $55,000 – $60,000 per year. This lower salary can also be contributed to the fact that the position is still relatively new and many health care organizations have not allocated the funds for these professionals yet. One of the benefits of this position being new, is that there are few clinical nurse leaders already in the work force. This leaves plenty of room for new graduates to find available positions and pave the way for their own careers.