Medical school professor using model to teach nursing students

A key role of a Clinical Nurse Leader is acting as an educator — advising patients and families on ways to prepare for and conduct self-care to maximize wellness. As an educator, a CNL uses unique strategies and materials to comprehensively teach groups of clients and healthcare professionals about the intricacies of health care in the community.


A CNL uses a variety of information and education tools in the teaching process both in the classroom and in the field to help fellow medical professionals increase their access to health care and improve treatment outcomes for patients.

  • Educate individuals about health risks and methods to prevent and/or reduce these risks among cohorts of patients.
  • Provide counsel on basic rules of health promotion, illness prevention and patient treatment.
  • Act as a patient advocate and instill core values of the profession in fellow nurses and other medical professionals.


The annual salary of a Clinical Nurse Leader in education ranges from $51,000 to $94,000 with a median being $72,500. The number will vary based on geographical location, type of organization and professional experience. (Note: Salary data collected as of 2016.)


In order to be a high-quality educator, a CNL needs to have a strong educational background with a graduate nursing degree (MSN) from a program accredited by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and a thorough understanding of the CNL role and the expectations that come with it.


Educating patients and colleagues is one of the core responsibilities associated with the role of Clinical Nurse Leader. Beyond those core responsibilities, CNLs can also choose to work at teaching hospitals or in the classroom at the college or university level.


Whether working in a clinical setting or in the classroom, CNLs must be able to synthesize technical information and procedural recommendations and successfully communicate those lessons with students, patients and coworkers alike.

If working in an academic setting, CNLs must build their skill sets around conducting research and publishing papers.


Where you wind up as an educator will likely depend on your desire to work directly with patients. Academics rarely work one-on-one with patients. This can be a good option for mid-career CNLs who are no longer interested in practicing in a clinical setting, yet still wish to make an impact on the field. Further education will be required for teaching roles in higher learning institutions.

Working at a teaching hospital or continuing to emphasize the role of education as a core component of a CNLs responsibilities offers the best of the academic and clinical worlds.