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Clinical Nurse Leader: Education and Career Information

If you aspire to supervise the care of patients while working with an advanced medical team, the Clinical Nurse Leader may be the right career path for you. This is an advanced position that has knowledge and experience in a variety of areas and helps to incorporate knowledge and treatments, and is responsible for a wide range of tasks.

What does a clinical nurse leader (CNL) do?

A clinical nurse leader is someone who has the capability and drive through licensed study and education. They supervise a number of tasks and responsibilities in a typical managerial role. This position is also called the CNL. A CNL is very different, as they are responsible for the design, implementation and evaluation of clients and their care. CNLs used evidence-based practice to ensure all patients receive the best care. A CNL works with a number of other medical professionals to plan and implement the best care for patients. They also facilitate collaborative care for patients, providing mentorships to nursing staff, establish and oversee the work environment, coordinate direct care. You will find a nurse in this position working in a number of areas. A clinical nurse leader roles can be found in the hospital or medical setting. You will find clinical nurse leaders in roles like: nurse manager, liaison, clinical wound specialist, and administrator.

How much does a clinical nurse leader earn?

The median annual wage for a CNL is around $84,000. This will vary based on education, location, facility, or whether or not they are working in home care. The CNL is a very important role in the medical profession, and this position stays in high demand. This role is a specialized position. This role and its salary is expected to grow by 20% up to 2024.

What types of skills are needed to become a clinical nurse leader?

Communication Skills: Communication skills are vital as a CNL. This role works closely with patients and other medical professionals to ensure every need is being met and the care plan is carried out successfully. They must be able to disseminate, comprehend and gather information from all parties about the needs and condition of the patient to make sure they are receiving the care they need.

Decision-Making Skills: The CNLs must be able to make sound decisions and use good judgment. This is essential in being able to perform efficiently and productively. They must be able to handle stress well, and handle issues as they arise. A CNL must be able to take charge and handle their tasks successfully. They must be able to think quick and react in preparation for emergencies.

Time Management Skills: A CNL must have excellent time management skills. They are always busy, and must be able to keep track of the patients, their needs, their medications, doctor’s orders, and keep patients happy.

Computer Skills: Technology skills are a must, as the medical field relies heavily on the use of technology to keep track of patient records, administer medications, keep reports and changes, and other vital information. The CNL is highly administrative, which means they are held accountable for the accuracy of records and monitoring the conditions of the patients. They must be able to quickly grasp new software and be adaptable to change.

Supervisory Skills: A CNL is a leader in their profession, ensuring each patient is well-taken care of, and coordinating and/or planning a specific plan of care. Strong supervisory skills are necessary for a functional and professional team environment.

Clinical Skills: A CNL must have excellent clinical skills, which are learned through the program and during internships. The practical nursing program will adequately prepare the CNL in the care of patients and how to properly deal with their families and other medical professionals. The CNL must have knowledge, skills and ability to be able to perform their duties successfully.

Internship Requirements

There are clinical requirements in the nursing program that are necessary in order to finish the required program. There are also additional education requirements, which paves the way to sit for the exam. Most requirements for internships require the students to be completed in 4 quarters. There must be at least 400 to 500 clinical contact hours, with 300 to 400 of those hours immersed in clinical care.

Education Requirements

Students wishing to become a CNL go through the standard nursing program, which results in a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). The students learn a variety of skills and techniques to be successful in this field. Students will complete coursework in microbiology, epidemiology, statistics, anatomy and physiology, and healthcare policy. After completing the program, students are required to sit for and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed. Once the student obtains the license, they should prepare to get work experience and step into a master’s level degree program. The coursework for this program includes health assessment, pathophysiology and pharmacology.

The CNL is a highly specialized position, and those nurses not only have the education, but attend special programs that are specifically designed to attain the certification as a CNL. The CNL program should teach students to demonstrate their proficiency in quality improvement, interdisciplinary team care, patient-centered care, evidence-based practice and the utilization of informatics. Once the master’s degree is obtained and sufficient experience, the student can sit for the clinical nurse leader certification from the Commission on Nurse Certifications.

This is a rewarding and lucrative position for the right person. A clinical nurse leader has the knowledge and expertise to lead in the development of care for patients. They must function as a clinician, educator, team manager, systems analyst and information manager. If this is a role that interests you, the opportunities for advancement are there. The clinical nurse leader is very active and is an integral part of the healthcare team.

Nursing Scholarships

American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) American Cancer Society Doctoral Degree Scholarships in Cancer Nursing Gallagher Student Health Careers Scholarship
The Gates Millenium Scholars (GMS) National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)
New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) Nurse Corps Scholarship (NCS) Nurses of Tomorrow
Nursing Economics Foundation Tylenol Future Care Scholarship American Holistic Nurses Association

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