Practice Areas


While a Clinical Nurse Leader can work in various settings, different roles mean different responsibilities. The most common practice areas where a CNL can be found are highlighted below. To learn more about each, navigate via the list at left.

  • Community Health Agencies

    Within a community health agency, a CNL is focused on areas such as disease transmission, health policy, and healthcare economics. Because communities differ from one another, there needs to be an understanding of various disciplines, cultures and geographical boundaries.



  • General Surgical Units

    The main role of a CNL in general surgical units is to improve communication, care coordination, patient experience and patient outcome.


  • Government/Regulatory Agencies

    In this area, a CNL is expected to fill the role of an advanced generalist, which includes knowing professional and policy information, as well as delegating other nurses.


  • Home Health Agencies

    Although not typical, a CNL role is well-suited for home care. CNLs help families care for their loved ones by providing knowledge in complex discharge situations.


  • Intensive Care Unit

    Responsibilities of the CNL in the ICU:

    • Perform advanced patient assessments in an intensive care context
    • Plan and change the care based on interdisciplinary and intra-disciplinary input of the team
    • Empower the patient by being their advocate
    • Promote evidence-based practice by encouraging thought beyond complacency

  • Military

    In the military,  the two most common places for a CNL are in Veterans Affairs (VA) and traditional medical facilities, both at home and abroad.

    At the VA, the expectations of a CNL include:

    • Improving patient satisfaction, staff satisfaction, and retention, which may entail patient flow and RN turnover rates
    • Medication management, patient safety, and prevention of nosocomial infections
    • Utilizing evidence-based approaches and having a collaborative, interdisciplinary practice

    In active duty facilities, a CNL’s role is:

    • Acting as a liaison between the nursing, medical, and ancillary staff to improve performance
    • Utilizing evidence-based research to improve practice and promote learning
    • Take initiative by coordinating the outcomes of new programs and inpatient operations

  • Private Practice

    A CNL’s role in the private practice setting is not the same as in a public practice or hospital setting. The most predominant difference is that the private practice tends to be more intimate and personal, giving a CNL an ability to have more of a relationship with individual patients. Opportunities to connect with patient on a deeper level provide a perfect avenue for the unique skill sets of private practice CNLs.


  • Urgent Care

    In addition to the normal clinical and bedside nursing responsibilities, a CNL in urgent care will also assess emergency preparedness plans and coordination with local, regional and National Incident Management Systems (NIMS).