The Evolution of the Clinical Nurse Leader

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 2
Words: 598
Reading time:
3 min

The Current Stage in the Clinical Nurse Leader’s Evolution

Clinical nurse leaders (CNLs) are evolved generalists in nursing who have been educated to master’s level (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2013). Their role was invented recently by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing while paying attention to result-oriented practice and enhancement of quality (Baernholdt & Cottingham, 2010). The rising incidents of medical errors also led to the creation of this role. Therefore, clinical nurse leaders center their attention on the wellbeing of patients with emphasis on microsystems, which include hospice units, casualty health centers, and home-based health organizations (Reid & Dennison, 2011). Currently, there is a lot of confusion between the roles of the CNL and another specialty referred to as a clinical nurse specialist (CNS). The confusion can be attributed to the ongoing efforts to clarify the roles and duties of the CNL.

The roles of the CNL include the provision of patient care and keeping an eye on the patients, managing patients’ plans of care by measuring and predicting hazards. The CNL also assigns and supervises the care of other nurses within a unit in addition to organizing and corresponding with the healthcare crew at a microsystem level. The use of evidence-based practice and quality enhancement approaches to better health care are other roles of a CNL.

Why the Clinical Nurse Leader Has the Potential to Evolve?

The role of the clinical nurse leader has the potential to evolve due to its similarities with the CNS, which is already a specialist role. For example, CNLs deliver care in diverse healthcare situations as well as offering specialized care and supporting their clients. The designing of patient treatment and fostering rapports between health care providers, patients, and their families is also dependent on the inputs of CNLs. CNLs need to be effective communicators to fit into interdisciplinary units.

Among the key goals indicated by AACN’s white paper was empowering patients to get the best out of self-care and make judgments regarding their healthcare (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2013). Consequently, clinical nurse leaders must be capable of enlightening patients as well as their families about taking the initiative to attain and sustain a healthy way of life. In addition, CNLs are required to educate other direct care specialists to enable them to promote health mastery among families and the entire society.

Advances in technology also necessitate certain adjustments in the operations of the healthcare industry. Therefore, CNLs must adjust and utilize up-to-date means to boost the care of patients. There may be a need to use current communication channels such as email and video chats to create and sustain liaisons with patients to keep an eye on their illnesses.

The Advantages and Disadvantages for the Clinical Nurse Leader As It Is Evolving to the Advanced Practice Level

One of the advantages of the evolution of the CNL role for the clinical nurse leaders is their ability to form harmonious partnerships with other nurses such as the CNS to improve the quality of care and patient outcomes.

However, the evolution of the CNS role may also have certain shortcomings. For example, the training that a CNL undergoes following the completion of a baccalaureate in nursing does not concentrate on core courses that are required for advanced practice (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2013). Therefore, there is a knowledge gap between advanced practice and the current state of the CNL. As a result, the evolution of a CNL into advanced practice may also entail going back to school to seek training that addresses this knowledge gap.


American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2013). Competencies and curricular expectations for clinical nurse leader education and practice. Web.

Baernholdt, M. & Cottingham, S. (2010). The clinical nurse leader – new nursing role with global implications. International Nursing Review 58(1), 74-78.

Reid, K. & Dennison, P. (2011). The clinical nurse leader (CNL) ®: point-of-care safety clinician. OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing 16(3), Manuscript 4. Web.