Do you have experience in a specialized area of nursing? Do you know the NICU, burn center, or coronary care unit better than your own living room? Are you the first person your colleagues turn to if they have a problem?

If so, you may have the makings of a Clinical Nurse Leader. These healthcare workers reap great fulfillment from making decisions that will benefit both patients and medical professionals. They can also still work hands-on with patients and nurses.

Problem-solving, budgeting, and implementing the latest healthcare technologies are part of the job description.

Here’s what you should know if you are interested in advancing your nursing role to become a Clinical Nurse Leader.

1. You Will Be an Expert

The average Clinical Nurse Leader makes $85,000 a year and has great job prospects. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of those in the nursing profession is expected to grow by 15% between now and 2026.

You will still be a part of the healthcare team, consulting with patients at their bedsides and working alongside other nurses. You will also be an expert resource and leader.

A unit’s Clinical Nurse Leaders will conduct interviews and surveys with the aim of improving the quality of care for patients. They will try to reduce errors that result in harm to patients and implement new strategies that will make the unit more safe and efficient.

In fact, according to the American Association of Colleges and Nursing, the implementation of Clinical Nurse Leader Programs in hospitals has been linked to:

  • Greater patient satisfaction
  • Shorter hospital stays
  • A reduced number of emergency room visits

Nurse leaders are responsible for budgeting and making efficient purchasing decisions. They also make staff changes.

The leaders will ensure that quality nurses are assigned to appropriate units at suitable times. They will manage nursing assignments properly.

2. You Will Be an Excellent Problem-Solver

Those in nurse leader roles are great at communication. They listen to their staff, taking concerns seriously.

They will gather data identifying causes of patient dissatisfaction, analyze various solutions, and implement new strategies.

While nurse leaders welcome the input of all employees, they are often the ones that make final, far-reaching decisions.

Clinical Nurse Leaders often represent the nursing staff at admin meetings, so it is important that your colleagues trust you.

3. You Will Not Be a Manager

The role of the nurse manager is to run a “tight ship.” Staffing schedules, budgeting, and patient care are all the responsibility of the nurse manager.

As a Clinical Nurse Leader, you will be more committed to the big picture. Inspiring your staff, fulfilling your company’s mission, and taking the lead in implementing new programs is all part of the role of the nurse leader.

4. You Will Not Have to Work in a Hospital

Nurse leaders are an important aspect of the hospital structure. Yet qualified leaders are not limited to this setting.

Educational institutions, nursing homes, urgent care facilities, physician’s offices, rehab centers, military institutions, and private residences are just a few of the places nurse leaders can exercise their knowledge and expertise.

Leaders working in schools and community centers will be responsible for educating families about personal care and illness prevention. They may also be asked to develop assessments to ascertain information on health risks in different communities.

Those working in private offices or rehab centers may be responsible for working closely with other staff members to improve the quality of patient care. The salaries for CNLs in private practice can exceed $100,000 a year.

There is an increasing demand for nurse leaders working in the military or with veterans. Their responsibility is to improve patient happiness and enhance the working environments of healthcare workers.

5. Nurse Leaders Are Hands-On Healthcare Workers

Many administrative positions in healthcare involve an increased amount of paperwork and a decreased amount of interaction with patients. Yet nurse leaders are still very much involved in the face-to-face aspects of nursing.

CNLs work one-on-one with patients, nurses, residents, and other medical professionals to improve practice. Those receiving care are not just numbers to nurse leaders. They are humans whose experiences can be greatly improved by the leader’s research and administration.

6. You Will Need a Degree

While most men and women in the nursing profession need to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, becoming a nurse leader requires additional education.

RN’s will need to acquire a Master’s of Science in a Clinical Nurse Leader Program and pass the CNL exam before becoming certified as a leader.

By the time they have gained the experience and knowledge necessary to become leaders, many nurses are already busy with their own families and social lives.

Many affordable online CNL programs offer the convenience of learning from home while allowing adults to advance in their careers.

After you pass the exam, you will be ready to embark on your new career. And don’t forget that there are many post-master’s certificates available if you wish to advance even further.

You’re on Your Way!

Pursuing a career as a nurse leader is a great decision. Once you have obtained the necessary credentials, there will be many healthcare arenas where you can practice. You will be able to use your knowledge to inspire and direct the care of patients and the overall well-being of your community.

For more information on opportunities in the Clinical Nurse Leader field, contact us and visit our website.