Taking the road less traveled: An innovative approach to the Clinical Nurse Leader role

Monday, 18 November 2013: 10:00 AM

Kristen M. Noles, RN, MSN, CNL
The Center for Nursing Excellence, The University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, Birmingham, AL

In response to the growing concern over patient safety, quality, and health care outcomes, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), created the role of the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL).  CNL practice involves team development, microsystem assessment, and process improvement.  Traditionally the CNL role is focused on the microsystem.  One attempt to implement the role in our organization resulted in role ambiguity, increased cost, and lack of quantifiable measures of influence. However, by utilizing the CNL at the macrosystem level, nursing leaders developed a unique way to maximize the impact of two CNLs.  The purpose of this presentation is to describe how the CNL skill set was used in an innovative, nontraditional role.

Applying the principles of the curriculum’s core competencies, the CNLs’ influence has been maximized.  From the macrosystem level, the unique aspects of the CNL role facilitated driving evidence based practice to the bedside, supporting care across the continuum, integrating technology into practice, and mentoring staff nurses as leaders. Their leadership has resulted in a) improvements in patient safety and quality, b) standardization of practice, and c) increased collaboration among a variety of disciplines. They influenced over 48 interdisciplinary teams, 27 hospital wide clinical practice changes, and multiple quality improvements projects. Additionally, in the past two years they have led nursing in the process of evaluating 3126 practice standards. 

As nurse leaders seek ways to utilize the CNL skill set, it is essential that they are open to the endless possibilities for the role within their organization.