What are Clinical Nurse Leaders?
The position of clinical nurse leader was created by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in an attempt to improve healthcare outcomes by providing high-quality care in a safe way by eliminating many of the errors made in the past – errors that could be fatal to patients. Clinical nurse leaders are often confused with clinical nurse specialists. While both play an important role in providing good patient care, they are different.
Clinical nurse specialists are registered nurses who specialize in a certain area of nursing, whereas clinical nurse leaders are trained professionals who plan and implement medical care for patients. CNLs are in charge of a group of nurses and other healthcare professionals. They must be not only registered nurses but must also hold at least a master’s degree with certification as a CNL.
Job Outlook for Clinical Nurse Leaders
In 2014, RNs had the highest employment in healthcare occupations, and that has not changed in recent years according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Registered nurses are expected to see job growth of 16% during the decade of 2016-2026, which is a much faster average than for all other occupations. Approximately 438,100 new registered nursing jobs will be created by 2026 with many of them being CNLs.
As good as the job outlook is for RNs, it’s even better for CNLs because they are in demand to train and lead RNs to provide high-quality patient care. Medical facilities are constantly looking for certified clinical nurse leaders. Clinical nurse leaders can work in positions, including clinical administrator; clinical nurse manager; post-acute clinical navigator; clinical wound specialist; nurse teachers, and clinical liaison.
Although the majority of CNLs work for the Veterans Health Administration, they can also be found working in general medical-surgical units of hospitals; intensive care units; doctors’ offices; home health agencies, and urgent care centers.
Wage Potential for Clinical Nurse Leaders
As of May 2018, registered nurses across the nation earned an average annual wage of $75,510. RNs in the lowest 10% earning bracket earned $50,800 while RNs in the top 90% earned $106,530. It should be noted that these wages are for RNs. Nurse Journal states that the pay scale for CNLS is much higher than for RNs, but because the position of CNL is relatively new, there is not a lot of wage information available. Here are the 5 top-paying states for RNs.
• California – $106,950
• Hawaii – $98,080
• District of Columbia – $92,350
• Massachusetts – $92,140
• Oregon – $91,080
Working as a clinical nurse leader is not just about good job security and earning a good wage. Nurse Journal states that CNLs originally came about because the healthcare industry needed qualified professionals who could lead, educate and train nurses and other healthcare professionals to provide high-quality patient care in a safe way. Becoming a clinical nurse leader is a career choice that offers not just a good outlook but also a very rewarding career.