Are you a registered nurse? Do you want a nursing role where you will coordinate with fellow medical professionals and create the best care program for patients?

If your answer is yes to these questions, then perhaps you should aim to become a clinical nurse leader (CNL).

Clinical nurse leaders always educate other medical staff regularly. They also learn new, improved methods in health care.

They must have excellent communication skills, be able to assess and prioritize tasks and be part of a team. They must also have excellent problem-solving skills.

Want to become a clinical nurse leader? All right. Here is what you need to know about this career.

What’s a Clinical Nurse Leader?

Clinical nurse leadership is a fairly new position in the healthcare field. A clinical nurse leader is a nurse with a Master’s Degree, whose job is to improve the quality of treatment for a specific bunch of patients.

Clinical nurse leaders work with a team of doctors, social workers, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and clinical nurse specialists.

They gather and evaluate the results of treatment. They then improve those results by vouching for an evidence-backed solution.

A clinical nurse leader must have advanced general medical knowledge rather than one main discipline.

They manage other nursing employees and act as a knowledge resource for the whole care team.

Clinical Nurse Leader Job Description

Clinical nurse leaders focus on improving the results of quality of patient care.

They work with the care team to collect and evaluate treatment results, evaluate risk, and keep up with the latest treatment innovations and technologies. They then use that knowledge to improve patient care.

They’re team leaders, advocates, and educators of patients, constantly seeking new methods to improve patients’ results.

A typical CNL job description would likely include these qualifications. Other qualifications are specific to the patient population and the type of institution.

  • Master’s Degree, active registered nurse license, and CNL certification
  • Prior professional experience in nursing with established leadership abilities
  • Solid organizational and problem-solving skills. These help to analyze the results of treatment and develop evidence-backed solutions and systems.
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills. These help CNLs deal with patients, medical teams, and caregivers on a continuing basis.
  • CNLs also need experience with managing nursing staff.

Clinical Nurse Leader Roles and Duties

The day-to-day duties of a clinical nurse leader are as follows:

  • Collect and analyze treatment results and create and put in place evidence-backed solutions to improve care and patients’ results
  • Ensure cost-effective care and sort out stumbling blocks to efficiency
  • Carry out risk analyses and assessments to ensure the safety of patients
  • Keep up with the relevant research to make sure that patients gain from the latest care innovations
  • Act as the overall knowledge resource for the entire medical care team, often actively managing nursing staff
  • Provide care directly to patients and educate patients on a continuing basis

Workplace Environment

A clinical nurse leader can work in various environments. This includes private clinics, hospitals, research facilities, and long-term care institutions.

They can also train nurses in medical schools. Here, they can create and put in place training programs geared toward improving patient care quality.

Education Requirements

You must first be a registered nurse to train as a clinical nurse leader. Then you must have a Master’s Degree, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

The clinical nurse leader Master’s Degree program is designed to be done within 3-4 semesters. Many schools offer online courses which are convenient for working nurses.

You can access classes anywhere, at any time, so long as you’ve got internet access.

After graduating, you’ll take a CNL certification exam at your school or designated exam center.

CNL Certification

After completing your formal clinical nurse leader course and getting clinical experience, you’ll be eligible to sit for the AACN CNL certification exam.
To qualify for clinical nurse leader certification, you must:

  • Have a current registered nurse license in the U.S. or any of its territories
  • Have at least a Master’s Degree from an institution that’s recognized by an accreditation body recognized by the Department of Education
  • Complete at least 400 clinical hours of a formal CNL training program
  • Complete at least 300 hours of clinical experience as a CNL (this could be part of your total 400 clinical hours

Clinical Nurse Leader Salary and Job Outlook

The median yearly wage for a registered nurse is $67,490, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Reported salaries range between $46,360 and $101,630 (10th and 9th percentile respectively).

The average CNL salary should be higher than that of a registered nurse, though. The median salary ranges from $74,030 to around $84,000.

The position is still fairly new but, so far, the salary appears to be comparable with that of other nurse leadership roles.

As with a registered nurse, the salary of a clinical nurse leader varies by area. Los Angeles and New York pay the highest salaries (but they’re also very expensive).

Government hospitals generally pay the best salaries, including VA centers. In unionized hospitals, CNL salaries vary by experience.

The employment for registered nurses is expected to increase by 16% from 2014 to 2024. This is significantly faster than average, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are only a few registered nurses around, so this should also help increase CNL job opportunities in the near future.

One of the best methods to improve your CNL job prospects is to have a strong base of clinical experience. Since this is a leadership position, employers usually favor people with hands-on experience.

Hospitals that are affiliated with a clinical nurse leader education program may also offer good job prospects.

The Bottom Line

While the clinical nurse leader role is still fairly new, many employers want people who can develop new procedures and policies to improve patient outcomes.

Moreover, many healthcare facilities are seeking nursing staff with higher degrees. This means that the demand for clinical nurse leaders will likely go up.

If you wish to become a clinical nurse leader, be sure to read the informative posts about the career on our blog.