Clinical Nurse Leaders (CNLs) are helping drive and shape how patients receive care, and an RN, with the right training and education, can quickly move up the career ladder and become a helping hand in positive change. If an RN has a desire to take on a role with greater responsibility, in any unit, including a maternity ward, one of the soundest methods for advancement is earning a Master of Science in Nursing, or MSN, with a Clinical Nurse Leader® track.
This degree not only enables nurses to handle their normal duties in a more efficient manner, but it also gives them the insight to design, coordinate and evaluate the care of adults as a primary care nurse, of children as a pediatric nurse, and of newborns and infants as a neonatal nurse or NICU nurse. The program also prepares students to gain management and collaboration skills for working with other healthcare professionals.
Improved Patient Care
One of the key roles of a CNL is to navigate health policy and health care informatics, ensuring that patients receive the highest level of care possible. And given that nurses interact with patients more often than doctors, they are better positioned to identify possible problems and convey these to the appropriate physician, social worker, pharmacist, or nurse practitioner. Also, since they are on the front line of patient health and work within all fields of health care, it’s their responsibility to stay abreast with the latest health trends and make valid attempts to incorporate new changes into a patient’s care, such as breastfeeding education for the antepartum patient. Though, without proper training, this can be a difficult or nearly impossible task.
They ensure the staff of neonatal nurses are performing at their best. “CNLs are a key part in initiating changes and implementing evidence-based practice,” stated Queens University of Charlotte alum Sara Pratt, MSN, RNC-OB, CNL at Carolinas Medical Center. She noted how her role is driven by the quality of patient care that neonatal nurses provide. “Lately, we have focused on patient satisfaction scores, discharge follow-up, education for the antepartum patient, working toward baby-friendly status, and achieving and maintaining OB certification.”
Collaborating with Neonatal Nurses and Doctors
When a mother is in a maternity unit, for example, she will interact with a number of individuals, ranging from lab technicians to multiple neonatal nurses and, possibly, numerous doctors and NICU nurses. A CNL clarifies a patient’s care plan, along with the care plan of the newborn, to both the patient and all the participants. Hospitals can be incredibly overwhelming to many patients; thus, CNLs help to alleviate the stress associated with the information overload during the pregnant patient’s hospital stay.
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The CNL liaises with those who interact with the patient and makes sure each individual who does is aware of the patient’s needs. “Having data and a clear description of what you’ll be doing as a CNL and how it will benefit many groups, including patients, staff, physicians, etc. is important prior to implementing the role,” added Pratt.
In addition, the nurse is able to discuss problems and solutions with the patient. If there is a problem with medications or communication, the nurses are going to know this first and be able to inform others. It is the CNL’s role to promote patient-centered outcomes, which starts with comfortable and informed patients.
Nurse leaders are in high demand within the hospital system. These positions ensure that other staff nurses receive the information and insights they need to offer effective care and foster improved collaboration among various stakeholders involved in each patient’s care.
According to Clinical Nurse Leader Certification Review, “Clinical competence is crucial in gaining mutual trust and respect, implying that nurses and other disciplines are more likely to collaborate with each other when it is perceived that clinical knowledge is strong.”
Safety of Patients
While all nurses are concerned and cognizant about the safety and care of patents, the responsibility of the quality of care falls on the shoulders of a CNL. Because of the relationships that nurse leaders build with their patients, they are able to identify problems when they arise.
Nancy McGushin, BSN, RN, CPAN at Fairfield Medical Center emphasizes the important responsibilities of CNLs, noting, “As a risk anticipator, it is the responsibility of the CNL to investigate factors that may lead to adverse patient outcomes and to develop preventive strategies to address those factors.” Training in patient safety and health policy can help ensure that everyone in the unit is safe at all times.
For RNs that are ready to better not only themselves but also the well-being of their patients in units ranging from maternity to intensive care and all others in between, continuing their education is the answer. Queens University of Charlotte’s online MSN with a Clinical Nurse Leader track offers the skills needed to become an effective patient advocate and leader amongst one’s peers.
Clinical Nurse Leaders have created measurable improvement in various other care settings as well as maternity. View Queens’ infographic to see how Clinical Nurse Leaders have created measurable improvement.