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First, knowing what a CNL does is important to know why they need to meet certain requirements. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) describes the role as “a point-of-care leadership and provides care in situation of particular complexity” (Point-of-Care, n.d.). A CNL is someone that “identifies ways to improve the quality of patient care by consistently evaluating patient outcomes, assessing cohort risk, changing care plans, advocating for change and mentoring fellow nurses” (Clinical Nurse Leader, n.d.). Other responsibilities of a CNL is to provide care coordination for patients with complex needs, implementing evidence-based practice, instituting quality improvement measurements, and coordinating
lateral interdisciplinary care that includes disciplines as diverse as occupational and physical therapy (Point-of-Care, n.d.). In order to fulfill these job requirements, one must possess strong problem solving and critical thinking skills, the desire to work closely with patients, and the willingness to mentor fellow nurses (Clinical Nurse Leader, n.d.). Academically, the CNL must also earn a minimum of a Master’s of Science degree in Nursing (MSN) in the Clinical Nurse Leader program as well as taking and passing the CNL certification from the Commission on Nurse Certification.
A CNL’s role or influence in patient care is through implementing and ensuring that care delivery is safe, evidence-based, and targeted towards optimal quality outcomes (Reid & Dennison, 2011). The intent of the new implementation of a CNL is to promote patient safety but also to incorporate the CNL’s focus on safety and to provide front-line care instead of being in a back hall, disconnected from the eyes and ears of the medical staff.
The role of clinical nurse leader (CNL) began in 2003-2004 due to the quality and safety reports of the Institute of Medicine. Clinical nurse leaders are prepared for direct clinical leadership to provide safe, evidence-based care and ensure that the patients get optimal healthcare. Clinical nurse leaders have multiple roles in the workplace. CNLs collect and evaluate treatment results and develop solutions to improve the outcome of patient care, evaluate the safety of the workplace, wnsure that the facilities are up-to-date on the latest research, and also provide patients with direct care and education. In order to become a clinical nurse leader, and BSN must be obtained followed by a Master’s of Science Clinical Nurse Leader program. Once completed a CNL certification test must be taken and passed.
There are multiple ways that they can ensure the safety of the patients. By providing direct patient care and education, CNLs are able to educate patients on their treatment plan and educate them on how to continue their treatment plan once they are discharged from the hospital. They can also ensure the safety of the patient by educating them on their medications. For example, they can teach them what each medication is for, the appropriate times to take each medication, any side effects they may experience, along with the correct dose of the medication they are taking. Safety is not just something that needs to be taken in to consideration while the patient is in the hospital, but once they are home.
A Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) is expected to have a master’s degree level of education or higher. CNLs play an active role in “designing, implementing and evaluating client care by coordinating, delegating and supervising the care proved by a healthcare team at the clinical level, as opposed to the administrative level, as is the case with other nursing leadership roles” (GNE, 2018, para. 4). CNLs must be competent and knowledgeable as a part of the nursing team. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) board acknowledges that the role of the CNL is multi-faceted and their education needs to have components of liberal arts and sciences, professional values, core competencies, core knowledge, and role development (GNE, 2018). CNLs should prepared in quality improvement, interdisciplinary team care, patient-centered care, evidence-based practice and the utilization of informatics (GNE, 2018). Clinical nurse leadership education focuses on policy and organization, nursing leadership, outcomes management, and care management. After completing a CNL education program, to be CNL certified a registered nurse, must hold a current NR license, hold a master’s degree, complete a minimum of 400 clinical hours within their formal education program, and complete a minimum of 300 clinical hour in a clinical immersion experience in the CNL role (GNE, 2018). CNLs are expected to be educated in advanced nursing knowledge to provide the best care, while improving patient outcomes with the latest innovations in health care.
A CNL can address minority health issues in health care. For example, a CNL overseeing the care of diabetic patients on a hospital unit may notice some discrepancies in outcomes. The CNL works as a leader to evaluate the patients, to see if there is a relationship between ethnicity-related issues and outcomes. The CNL can review the literature to see if this clinical issue has been previously identified within this particular minority patient population. Then, the CNL can develop and implement a plan of care to improve health outcomes for those patients.