A New Role for Nurses

For the first time in over 35 years, a new nursing role has been introduced to the medical field. The clinical nurse leader(CNL) grew out of a 1999 Institute of Medicine report that challenged healthcare providers to reduce medical errors while staying focused on patient safety.

The American Association of Nurses (AACN) introduced the role after initiating an investigation into the barriers to improved care. The new role was created in order to prepare nurses to thrive in the changing healthcare system. Healthcare is growing increasingly more complex, and an importance is placed on leaders who are trained in complexity theory and can navigate and better understand patient outcomes.

As defined by the CNLA, the CNL is an advanced clinician who serves as the lateral integrator- someone who facilities, coordinates, and oversees care within the unit while also collaborating with others across the healthcare continuum. The role is about more than improving financial outcomes: a CNL improves the outcome for both patients and healthcare workers equally.

In order to make the CNL track available for new nursing students as well as nurses who may have already completed the majority of their education, the AACN created five different models so there is an entry into a CNL education program, regardless of educational background. The five models are:

1.       Model A- Master’s degree program designed for students with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

2.       Model B- Master’s degree program for BSN graduates that includes a post-BSN residency that awards master’s credit.

3.       Model C- Master’s degree program designed for individuals with a baccalaureate degree in another discipline.

4.       Model D- Master’s degree program designed for ADN graduates (RN-MSN)

5.       Model E- Post-master’s certificate program designed for individuals with a master’s degree in nursing in another area of study.

As a nursing school student, or potential nursing student, the options are limitless when it comes to post-secondary education and career opportunities.