Clinical Nurse Leader

What is a clinical nurse leader? It is a newer role in the field of nursing that was created to prevent errors from happening in health care facilities.

Job Duties

These nurses have a wide range of duties including:

  • Emphasizing access to cost-effective care for all patients
  • Evaluating potential risks to patient safety
  • Creating health promotion and risk-reduction services for diverse populations
  • Identifying and correcting areas of waste
  • Creating plans of care that are supported by data and research
  • Providing education at the community level
  • Supervising and educating nurses and technicians as they treat patients

Even though this is a relatively new role, early data suggests patients treated under a clinical nurse leader’s care tend to spend less time in the hospital and are less likely to return with the same condition.

Clinical Nurse LeaderWhere do Clinical Nurse Leaders Work?

These nurses work in a variety of settings in order to maintain the quality and safety of patient services.  They include acute care institutions, hospitals, medical colleges, private clinics, and research facilities. In hospitals, they have rotating shifts that cover days, nights, and holidays. Those working in doctors’ offices or for home health care agencies can expect to work occasional evening or weekend hours to best meet patients’ schedules.

Popular Jobs

Popular jobs for clinical nurse leaders include:

  • Clinical Administrator
  • Clinical Liaison
  • Clinical Nurse Manager
  • Clinical Wound Specialist
  • Post-Acute Clinical Navigator

Educational Requirements

Clinical nurse leaders are registered nurses who have furthered their education at the master’s degree level (though some go on to earn a doctoral degree). CNL programs emphasize care delivery systems, leadership, and healthcare technology and finance. Students also complete advanced clinical courses such as assessment, pharmacology, and pathophysiology.


You first need to earn your registered nursing certification as well as hold a master’s or doctoral degree before you are eligible to sit for the Clinical Nurse Leader Certification exam administered by the Commission on Nursing Certification.

Personal Characteristics

To work in this field, it is helpful to have the following characteristics to be successful in your career:

  • Bravery
  • Initiative
  • Integrity
  • Self-confidence

Effective Nursing Leadership

As a clinical nurse leader, you will have a lot of interaction with your colleagues. Strong leadership is a must as it is a big part of the job. You can accomplish this by:

Always listening – Make sure you make eye contact with the person in front of you and really listen to what they have to say. At the end of the conversation, briefly summarize it without making judgments or quick decisions.

Supporting your staff – This is very important because the happier the staff, the better the working environment. Get to know those you work closely with on an individual basis. This will allow you to determine how they best learn as teaching is another large aspect of the job.

Inspiring and encouraging your staff – It is not always easy to keep a health care staff motivated since nursing is a demanding job and burnout is fairly common (though nurses working under a CNL report a higher job satisfaction). Make sure to give positive reinforcement when it is deserved.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nursing profession as a whole can expect an above average growth over the next decade. And the demand for clinical nurse leaders will be even greater. This is because their role in the field is becoming more important.

The national median wage is $84,000, which is higher than the average for registered nurses which is around $65,470. Government hospitals including VA facilities usually offer the best salaries.

As you just learned, clinical nurse leaders have a demanding job that offers a lot of variety. If this sounds like the career for you, contact us to learn more.