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Becoming a Clinical Nurse Leader - A Central Point of Contact in the Healthcare Industry

When entering the medical field, there are a number of specialties to choose from. Nursing alone encompasses over 100 specialties, from dermatology to forensics. Finding your niche can be daunting, and making the decision to shift from an RN role into that of a Clinical Nurse Leader® (CNL) may even leave some with trepidation. While it’s natural to feel hesitant about making such a transition, given the added responsibilities of CNLs, it’s important to remember the rewards of working in such a results-oriented role are many. Plus, unlike some nursing leadership roles that are more focused on managerial or administrative tasks, CNLs are still afforded the opportunity to work with patients regularly.

The CNL career path is ideal for established nurses who strive to be the best and desire to create measurable improvements in their clinic or hospital while still being able to interact with patients regularly. A Master of Science in Nursing with a Clinical Nurse Leader track is the best path for nurses to achieve this career goal, as it is designed to prepare nurses for the CNL certification exam, and nurses wishing to work as a CNL are required to hold a master’s degree. Nurses with master’s degrees have the potential of earning a yearly salary that is almost $20,000 higher than RNs without master’s degrees.1

Why Pursue a Master of Science in Nursing with a Clinical Nurse Leader Track?


Image via Flickr by COD Newsroom

Many nurses feel limited by their positions and seek more responsibility and fulfillment from their careers. Those who earn their MSN can achieve the satisfaction they seek with a CNL position where, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, they will assume “accountability for patient-care outcomes through the assimilation and application of evidence-based information to design, implement and evaluate patient-care processes and models of care delivery.”

The clinical leadership offered by nurses with this degree is vital in the medical community, given that an MSN with a CNL track offers seasoned RNs the needed skillset to create, implement and gauge a patient’s care, along with the management and collaboration skills for working with other healthcare professionals.

What are the Benefits of Becoming a Clinical Nurse Leader?

Image via Flickr by COD Newsroom

When pursuing an MSN with a Clinical Nurse Leader track, individuals learn the needed skills that will help further their career and enable them to serve as interdisciplinary leaders in their care units, such as how to properly evaluate and implement new patient care plans and integrate new technology. It also gives students an understanding of whom in a facility to contact and the appropriate channels to follow when problems or concerns with a patient’s health arise. Most importantly though, it builds on the competence of seasoned RNs, giving them the confidence to trust their own judgment and the knowledge gained after years of experience working one-on-one with others. View our infographic on the importance of the Clinical Nurse Leader role.

What is the Future of Healthcare?

Health care is constantly changing. Given new legislation and the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, along with the aging baby boomer population, more people have access to health insurance and more will be seeking care as they age, so the demand for nurses and nurse leaders will continue to grow.

Coupled with the increase in nursing staff, there will be a significant need for those who have been trained as leaders in the nursing field and understand how to take charge of patient health and wellness. As this develops, more people will be looking into MSN degrees and Clinical Nurse Leader programs. This graduate program offers students an edge in areas like professionalism and ethics, research methods and management of clinical outcomes – all of which help nurses become well-rounded leaders who foster collaboration among the various stakeholders contributing to patients’ care.

For those looking to further their nursing career and remain an integral part of a growing field, an MSN is paramount. For those nurses who wish to maintain patient interaction in their workday while stepping up to a role that drives improvement across healthcare disciplines, a master’s in nursing with a Clinical Nurse Leader track is an excellent option. Queens University of Charlotte is one of few nursing schools in North Carolina to offer the CNL track in an online MSN degree. Classes are offered online to accommodate every schedule, and our dedicated, accomplished faculty are ready to assist you through in your process of reaching your full potential as a leader in the nursing profession. Request more information and enroll today.

1 “The Registered Nurse Population: Findings from the 2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses,” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, September 2010.