What is a CNL?

A Holistic Approach to Health Care Leadership

Created by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the Clinical Nurse Leader role promotes leadership to improve quality patient care and make positive changes in health care models.

Nurses must pursue higher education and pass a certification exam in order to earn the Clinical Nurse Leader credential. Upon certification, Clinical Nurse Leaders are challenged with putting evidence-based practice into action. The multidisciplinary role involves collecting and evaluating patient outcomes, assessing cohort risk, and making authoritative decisions to change care plans.

Communication is also a key factor of the Clinical Nurse Leader role. As leaders, CNLs must communicate, plan, and implement care directly with other health care professionals including physicians, pharmacists, social workers, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse practitioners.

The first advanced program to focus on Clinical Nurse Leadership was launched at the University of San Francisco in 2005. Now offered online, the Online MSN Clinical Nurse Leader program provides nurses with the foundation necessary to sit for the Clinical Nurse Leader Certification exam and pursue a career as a nurse leader.


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