Practice Area: Education2017-10-19T12:54:43-07:00


A key role of a Clinical Nurse Leader is acting as an educator — advising patients and families on ways to prepare for and conduct self-care to maximize wellness. As an educator, a CNL uses unique strategies and materials to comprehensively teach groups of clients and healthcare professionals about the intricacies of health care in the community.


A CNL uses a variety of information and education tools in the teaching process both in the classroom and in the field to help fellow medical professionals increase their access to health care and improve treatment outcomes for patients.

  • Educate individuals about health risks and methods to prevent and/or reduce these risks among cohorts of patients.

  • Provide counsel on basic rules of health promotion, illness prevention and patient treatment.

  • Act as a patient advocate and instill core values of the profession in fellow nurses and other medical professionals.


Nursing Clinical Instructor Is One Career Path for CNLs

The annual salary of a Clinical Nurse Leader in education ranges from $51,000 to $94,000 with a median being $72,500. The number will vary based on geographical location, type of organization and professional experience. (Note: Salary data collected as of 2016.)


In order to be a high-quality educator, a CNL needs to have a strong educational background with a graduate nursing degree (MSN) from a program accredited by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and a thorough understanding of the CNL role and the expectations that come with it.


Educating patients and colleagues is one of the core responsibilities associated with the role of Clinical Nurse Leader. Beyond those core responsibilities, CNLs can also choose to work at teaching hospitals or in the classroom at the college or university level.


Whether working in a clinical setting or in the classroom, CNLs must be able to synthesize technical information and procedural recommendations and successfully communicate those lessons with students, patients and coworkers alike.

If working in an academic setting, CNLs must build their skill sets around conducting research and publishing papers.


Where you wind up as an educator will likely depend on your desire to work directly with patients. Academics rarely work one-on-one with patients. This can be a good option for mid-career CNLs who are no longer interested in practicing in a clinical setting, yet still wish to make an impact on the field. Further education will be required for teaching roles in higher learning institutions.

Working at a teaching hospital or continuing to emphasize the role of education as a core component of a CNLs responsibilities offers the best of the academic and clinical worlds.

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Practice Areas

While a Clinical Nurse Leader can work in various settings, different roles mean different responsibilities. The most common practice areas where a CNL can be found are highlighted below. To learn more by clicking on each icon.

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What education level is required to be a CNL?

You will need at least a MSN with a concentration in Clinical Nurse Leadership or a similar program. This is because a CNL needs to be a resource for their nursing team, and the MSN assures that a nurse is clinically competent to do that.  There are also Post-Master’s Certificate programs that will prepare any nurse already carrying an MSN degree for the CNL exam.

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