Clinical Nurse Leader

Clinical Nurse LeaderA Clinical Nurse Leader is a registered nurse who has specialized in a medical area of interest, focusing on a specific population of patients; and has assumed a leadership role. Other nurses look to a clinical nurse leader for advisement and counsel regarding complicated patient cases. Clinical Nurse Leaders work on many units in a hospital, clinic or long-term care facility. Their knowledge and experience is priceless as it helps to improve healthcare for patients, their families and communities. Clinical Nurse Leaders focus on patient quality of care and safety.

Clinical Nurse Leader is a role which was developed and recognized by the American Association of Colleges of Nurses. This role was designed to help lessen errors in healthcare facilities which in the past have resulted in patient injury and death. These nurses have advanced knowledge and have mastered nursing care of a particular group of patients and are considered experts. Clinical Nurse Leaders work as educators, team leaders and patient advocates.  They also serve as outcomes managers and systems analyst. These specialist incorporate and advocate for latest medical technologies to be implemented in healthcare facilities for improved patient care.

Qualities of a Clinical Nurse Leader

A nurse who desires to become a Clinical Nurse Leader has the motivation to succeed and make a difference in their place of employment. They are not afraid to be leaders and implement evidenced-based practices which benefit patients and healthcare workers alike. They are always learning new and improved ways in healthcare and educate their staff on a regular basis. Clinical Nurse Leaders must be able to communicate well, be able to work as a team and have the ability to evaluate and prioritize. They must also possess good problem solving skills.

Education Requirements

In order to become a Clinical Nurse Leader, a register must attain a Masters level of education. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has deemed that Clinical Nurse Leaders must receive a graduate degree beyond a Bachelor of Science in nursing to hold and practice the leadership role a Clinical Nurse is responsible for. Most nurses who choose to attain a Clinical Nurse Leader degree have a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing or a different major. Master of Science in nursing programs for Clinical Nurse Leaders are designed to be completed in about three to four semesters. Many colleges offer online programs which are convenient for the working nurse. Classes can be accessed anywhere, anytime as long as you have internet access. After graduating, a student will take the Clinical Nurse Leader certification examination at their school or at a designated testing center.

Job Description & Duties

A Clinical Nurse Leader is the expert over a lateral integration of care of a certain population of patients and they work alongside other nurses taking care of patients at the bedside. Clinical Nurse Leader work as part of a healthcare team of doctors, social workers, pharmacists and other nurse specialists. These specialist design and implement projects which benefits healthcare workers with everyday challenges.  A clinical nurse leader collects data and evaluate patient outcomes to improve future plans of care. Their focus is to improve patient care, lessen patient errors and implement new ideas on units and in clinics for efficiency and safety. A Clinical Nurse Leader oversees their unit and assures that nurse assignments are safe and that assigned staff is qualified to care for them. They monitor staff performance and make changes when necessary. They are directors of units and ensure the flow of patients is managed in a safe and efficient manner.

Job Outlook and Salary

A Clinical Nurse Leader’s annual salary is approximately $82,000.They may make more or less depending on years of experience and geographical area. Job outlook is good as they are the specialists who are able to structure the delivery of healthcare in a cost-effective way without compromising quality of care. Healthcare is a dynamic field which is evolving to a new system of care. Clinical nurse leaders are needed to implement new changes to help mold and shape a new healthcare system.


Written by

Carrie Cronkite BSN, RN

Carrie has been a registered nurse for 14 years and works at a local hemodialysis outpatient center. She has experience in cardiac nursing, orthopedic rehabilitation and [...]