Clinical Nurse Leader FAQs

In an effort to explore new opportunities in nursing, you came across a relatively new discipline called “clinical nurse leader.” It sounds intriguing based on your initial findings, but you aren’t sure what the vocation entails, how to earn your degree or what jobs are available. Before making final decisions on your education and future, learn about the role of clinical nurse leaders, the educational requirements and why this fast-growing field could be a perfect fit for you.
Clinical Nurse Leader FAQs

What Is a CNL?

Several years ago, the American Association of Colleges of Nurses (AACN) posed a critical question about the future of the nursing profession: How do we improve the level of patient care while preparing tomorrow’s nurses for latest technologies? The answer was to create a new specialization: A clinical nurse leader. Technically, a CNL is a registered nurse who completed a master’s degree in nursing with an emphasis in a variety of topics, including pharmacology and patient services. The goal of this specialization was to pinpoint certain areas of hospitals and clinics that need improvement. It’s the job of a CNL to perform this task while making the institution safer for patients.

What Are a CNL’s Job Responsibilities?

The role of as CNL differs depending on the institution, but the main responsibility is to determine specific needs of patients or groups of patients and what is required to meet those needs. For instance, a CNL working in the intensive care unit might be charged with ensuring a group of patients receives a more advanced level of care. However, don’t assume the job of a CNL is merely administrative. On the contrary, the majority of CNLs interact with patients and other health care providers daily to ensure the latest technologies and innovations are being integrated.

What Are the Educational Requirements?

If you’re an RN currently working, be aware that to seek employment as a CNL, it’s necessary to head back into the classroom to earn a nursing master’s degree. Along with the core classes required to earn the degree, CNL candidates must acquire knowledge in other areas, including pathophysiology, pharmacology and clinical assessment. The precise qualifications vary by state, which is why it’s important to inquire about the specific training and certification requirements based upon your geography.
Heading back into the classroom is a difficult decision, especially if you don’t have the time to attend school at a traditional, brick-and-mortar institution. If this is the case, consider seeking an advanced generalist clinicians degree online. Online education offers students the flexibility to continue working full-time while striving to advance in their present career.

Is There a Demand for CNLs?

Although this too is a new discipline, many hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities are recognizing the need for clinical nurse leaders. The main objective of a CNL is identifying a patient or group of patient’s specific needs and working toward ways to meet those specific needs. As long as there are health care facilities striving to improve patients’ welfare, there will always be a need for CNLs.

Is a Certification Exam Involved?

To begin working as a clinical nurse leader, you must earn your master’s of science in nursing, or MSN, or a CNL degree. Once you earn an advanced degree, the next step is passing your state’s required certification exam. Again, the requirements vary by state, but generally all that is required to receive the CNL credential is earning your master’s, passing the NCLEX exam and finally passing your CNL exam.
If you’re ready to be a pioneer in the nursing field, consider becoming a clinical nurse leader. The task may seem daunting and you might wonder how you can fit schoolwork into your packed schedule. Online education combined with hard work and dedication is the best way to meet this goal.
About the Author: Laurel Carpenter is a blogger and recent graduate. Laurel is studying for her CNL certification and hopes to work at her local hospital.