What is a CNL?

Valerie Short CNL at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte NC

The Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL®) is the first new role in nursing in over 35 years. Presented by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the CNL® is a masters prepared advanced generalist serving as the lateral integrator for the health care team who facilitates, coordinates, and oversees care within the microsystem and in collaboration with the macrosystem. CNLs are nursing professionals who have earned a master’s or post-master’s degree in a formal CNL education program.

The Role of a CNL

The role varies across practice settings, but is practiced at the point of care, following a cohort of patients with a focus on evidence based practice, safety, quality, risk reduction and cost containment. As an advanced generalist, the CNL® has the opportunity to work with all patient populations in all practice settings.

AACN provides an interesting and highly informative white paper (PDF 224KB) that discusses the origin of the CNL designation and describes the CNL role. Obtain more information about the role of the CNL from AACN.

In October 2013 the AACN released the updated Competencies and Curricular Expectations for the Clinical Nurse Leader Education and Practice.

A Day in the Life of a CNL

What does a CNL do? That is a question that we hear often. CNLA has compiled brief statements from CNLA members in four different practice settings highlighting a typical day at work.

In this section, you will read about typical workdays in Multidisciplinary Rounds, Patient Safety and Lateral Integration, Patient Care Leader, and Spinal Cord Injury Unit.

We hope these stories provide a better understanding of what the types of duties CNLs perform and will inspire you to follow the CNLs lead.