Top Clinical Nurse Leader Resources


The clinical nurse leader role was developed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) in response to client care needs and the changing health care delivery environment. Clinical nurse leaders work across all settings in which health care is delivered–not just the acute care setting. They provide and manage care by designing, implementing and evaluating client care. Clinical nurse leaders coordinate, delegate and supervise care provided by the health care team who includes licensed nurses, technicians and other health professionals.

Role Responsibilities
Ultimately clinical nurse leaders are tasked with exercising leadership in the care of the sick and across all environments. This requires clinical decision-making skills, risk anticipation, providing and assessing population-appropriate health care to individuals as well as to clinical groups and communities, accountability for evaluation and improvement of point-of-care outcomes, client and community advocacy and delegation and oversight of care delivery and outcomes.

This role requires an innovative way of thinking because clinical nurse leaders must be eager and open to initiating and launching programs that result in changing clinical landscapes and positive patient outcomes. Clinical nurse leaders must also be team players who are willing to collaborate with health professionals and other team members in order to implement change.

Heavily Reliant on Evidence-Based Practice
Because clinical nurse leaders face the challenge of implementing change, they must have a solid understand of research-based practice, rather than throwing out ideas that cannot be backed up by evidence. Even though most higher education programs in nursing involve evidence-based practice, other types of nurses don’t always routinely read professional journals nor do they always incorporate the latest evidence into practice.

Clinical nurse leaders, however, must continue to follow research so they can stay current with nursing practices and suggest new methods of practice.

Acting as an Educator
Being heavily reliant on evidence-based practice translates into being an educator because clinical nurse leaders must be able to prepare individuals, families and cohorts of clients for self-care and a maximal level of functioning and wellness. This involves helping clients acquire, interpret and use information related to health care, illness and health promotion. It also involves being a professional advocate for holistic, defragmented, patient-centered care at the micro system, organizational and political levels of health care practice.

Additional Facets of the Job Role
Beyond acting as educators, clinical nurse leaders also act as clinicians, outcomes managers, client advocates, information managers, systems analysts/risk anticipators, team managers, members of professions and lifelong learners. Because of this role being so multifaceted and focused on innovation, clinical nurse leaders must always continue to educate themselves on the most current studies and practices.

Improving Quality Care
There are many different ways that clinical nurse leaders achieve quality care improvement. Just one example is a clinical nurse leader who has a position in a Geriatric Evaluation and Management Clinic. She launched a project with post-hospitalization follow-up calls to determine home safety of clients. And in nine months, she saw that falls were reduced by 75%.

Additional examples include a 16% reduction in one unit’s yearly NUM rate that produced a savings of more than $240,000, 20% reduction in falls, 22 months of being VAP free, 28 months of being Central Line Infection free and 11% increase in foley removal.

Overall, these examples display efficiency across various levels. Clinical nurse leaders aim to integrate care services efficiently and cost-effectively across many disciplines and care settings by applying evidence-based practice, as previously mentioned.

Educating Clinical Nurse Leaders
Clinical nurse leader education builds upon direct-care nursing skills acquired in an undergraduate baccalaureate nursing program or in the initial pre-licensure component of the clinical nurse leader education program. Graduate-level curriculum develops a solid foundation in policy/organization, outcomes management, nursing leadership and care management.

Once students complete a master’s-level program and the 10-15 week immersion experience, they become eligible to sit for the Clinical Nurse Leaders Certification Examination.

Because this is a fairly new role in nursing, not all schools offer a master’s program for it. The good news is that many of the programs being offered can be completed online. This encourages you do continue working throughout your studies so that you can keep gaining experience in the field and you can also apply learned principles as you go.

Helpful Links for Further Reading
Whether you’re a current certified nurse leader or you’re someone who plans on sitting for the exam in the near future, the following links may be helpful to you.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has an abundance of information regarding the Clinical Nurse Leader exam. Learn about dates, fees and more.

See which colleges and universities are currently accepting students into Master of Science in Nursing programs that prepare you to sit for the Clinical Nurse Leader exam.

Join the Clinical Nurse Leader Association to stay connected with others in the field.

Register for the Clinical Nurse Leader Summit and Research Symposium.


To apply for Clinical Nurse Leader jobs, visit any of the following sites:

Career services especially for Clinical Nurse Leaders.

Explore a variety of specific health care professions.

Financial Aid information can be found here.

American Nurses Association career information site.



AACN. (February 2007). White Paper on the Education and Role of the Clinical Nurse Leaderâ„¢.


call to action