The clinical nurse leader (CNL) is a clinician with advanced education that is the level of a master’s degree

The clinical nurse leader (CNL) is a clinician with advanced education that is the level of a master’s degree. It is essential that a CNL hold a graduate education as they are expected to bring a higher level of clinical skill and knowledge to the workplace and with the point of care.

They are also expected to be a resource to the nursing team. A CNL with a master’s degree in nursing supports preparation for advanced roles in the future.

The CNL role involves overseeing the coordination of the patient’s care. They also are risk evaluators, develop quality improvement strategies, facilitate a dialogue between team members, and implement evidence-based practices at the level of education for unit floor staff.

Additional roles they should know include preparing nurses for leadership in various healthcare systems and practice settings. A CNL is there to help design, implement, and evaluate nursing care for the protection of the patient. Their overall role is to engage in the revolution of the healthcare system by providing a quality of patient care that is exceptional.

They influence direct patient care in their community as well as the hospital setting by being effective in providing direct patient care in complex situations. There are many who are likely to be at the bedside carrying out a breakdown of the collected data to improve patient health. On the other hand, they are also responsible for the consequences of the care provided (Hix, McKeon, & Walter, 2009).

In 2013, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) published a white paper proposing this new role in nursing: Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) to improve the health care outcomes (Sotomayor & Rankin, 2017). The goal of having a CNL is to employ a master prepared nurse to practice across the continuum of care within a diverse healthcare setting in today’s changing healthcare environment (American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN], 2013).

According to the AACN (2013, pg. 4-5), “the foundation of aspects of CNL practice include:

1.Clinical leadership for patient-care practices and delivery, including the design,

coordination, and evaluation of care for individuals, families, groups, and populations.

2.Participation in the identification and collection of care outcomes.

3.Accountability for evaluation and improvement of point-of-care outcomes, including the synthesis of data and other evidence to evaluate and achieve optimal outcomes.

4.Risk anticipation for individuals and cohorts of patients.

5.Lateral integration of care for individuals and cohorts of patients.

6.Design and implementation of evidence-based practice(s).

7.Team leadership, management, and collaboration with other health professional team Members.

8.Information management or the use of information systems and technologies to improve healthcare outcomes.

9.Stewardship and leveraging of human, environmental, and material resources.

10.Advocacy for patients, communities, and the health professional team”.

In Sotomayor’s report (2017), from 2010 to 2015, CNLs directed a substantial positive impact on the issue of patient falls, urinary tract infections associated with catheters, bloodstream infections associated with central lines, and pressure ulcers on medical-surgical units that are acquired in the hospital. They are able to expose issues in the environment, coordinate with other healthcare professionals, lead the healthcare team while providing quality care and making the correct changes to improve the care in a diverse healthcare setting.


American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2013). Competencies and curricular expectations for clinical nurse leader education and practice [White paper]. Retrieved from…

Hix, C., McKeon, L., & Walter, S. (2009, February 1). Clinical nurse leader impact on clinical microsystems outcomes. JONA: The Journal of Nursing Administration, 39(2), 71-76.

Sotomayor, G., & Rankin, V. (2017, January-February). CNE SERIES: Clinical nurse leaders: Fulfilling the promise of the role. MEDSURG Nursing, 26(1), 21-24, 32. Retrieved from…

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