What Is a CNL?

Accredited by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) initiative launched in 2003. The CNL position is unique to nursing because it promotes continuous personal and professional growth as a nurse.

A CNL is an experienced MSN-prepared nurse that still works bedside and interacts with patients. The original objective of the AACN was to develop a leadership role in nursing, and a CNL not only acts as a leader, but also makes substantial advances in the quality of healthcare.  CNLs practice the full scope of their profession, in addition to managing the microsystem of the healthcare setting and implementing an outcomes-based practice that is responsive to the needs of their patients.

Fundamental objectives of the CNL Role:

  • Leadership and team collaboration in the healthcare environment
  • Promoting health and risk reduction through anticipation
  • Implementing evidence-based practice
  • Clinical decision-making
  • Enacting plans of care
  • Identifying and collecting care outcome information
  • Accountability for evaluating and improving point-of-care outcomes
  • Acting as patient advocate as well as customizing client care
  • Educating and dispersing information
  • Maximizing efficiency on human, environmental, and material resources
  • Integrating technology into patient care

Because the CNL role encompasses so many aspects of the healthcare field, there are many positions that are available to them.

  • Clinician
  • Outcomes manager
  • Client advocate
  • Educator
  • Information manager
  • Systems analyst and risk anticipator
  • Team manager