What It Means To Be a CNL

To be a nurse is to give a little of yourself to each and every patient you care for, to be there for people at the worse time of their lives. It is a profession of infinite giving and compassion that you may not get back in return, but you continue to give just the same. In this article, you will learn what it means to be a CNL.

The care nurses provide not only mend wounds, bones, and hearts but also lives. As gratifying as bedside nursing can be, it can take a toll on you physically and emotionally.

The great thing about the nursing profession is the endless avenues and opportunities it provides. Straight out of nursing school, bedside nursing and direct patient care is a great foundation to start.

After many years and experience of patient care, you might be thinking of what can be the next step. You start asking yourself where you want to go, stay in-hospital, go out-of-hospital, and/or go back to school. The possibilities are limitless.

One path that keeps you close to patient care but takes you to the next level is a Clinical Nurse Leader.

What is a CNL Credential?

What is a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL)?

The Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) was first introduced in 2003 as a new nursing role designed to fulfill emerging need in the US (Schneider, 2014). The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Board defines a CNL as a generalist clinician who possesses an education at the master’s degree level or higher.

A CNL represents an exciting and promising opportunity for clinicians that possess the education, competence, and knowledge to bring a nursing team to the next level of clinical care. This role does vary across different settings but begins at the point of patient care. The CNL follows a group of patients and focuses on the use of evidence-based practice to provide quality care and safety. They also ensure risk reduction and cost containment.

The CNL role creates care plans, coordinates care among the many providers, and becomes the advocate for all involved. As a CNL, you have the opportunity to mold good nurses into great nurses by working alongside them and supporting them.

Find out more about earning your CNL Degree online.

CNL: Provides Quality Care

What is a CNL Credential? Should I pursue a CNL credential?As a CNL you will bring evidence-based practices to the forefront and review the level of quality care given which is then discussed with the care team.

Think of a CNL as a team leader that leads by example, assists in coordinating care, and provides care and support to both the patients and co-workers.

Clinical Nurse Leaders Are Needed in Healthcare

There is growing evidence in the nursing literature regarding the positive impact of healthy work environments on staff satisfaction, retention, improved patient outcomes, and organizational performance. To provide this environment, strong leadership is required (Sherman & Pross, 2010).

A CNL provides this support and leadership. This position has also shown improvements in patient outcomes, reductions in patient falls, and a decrease in standard pressure ulcers. The benefits of Clinical Nurse Leaders can be endless in healthcare settings.

More and more organizations are integrating CNLs into their care teams. This next level in nursing care will provide you a great opportunity for personal and professional growth and lead you to the next phase of healthcare.

Take our quiz to find the right CNL Degree for you.



Sherman, R., Pross, E., (Jan. 31, 2010) “Growing Future Nurse Leaders to Build and Sustain         Healthy Work Environments at the Unit Level” OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol. 15, No. 1, Manuscript 1.

Schneider, J. (2014). Clinical Nurse Leader. Consult PRN, 32, 563-564.  doi: 10.1097/NHH.0000000000000146