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Clinical Nurse Leader

Clinical nurse leaders fill a relatively new nursing role advocated by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). These nurses are responsible for implementing innovative, evidence-based patient care plans for specific patient groups, overseeing and participating in those patient care plans and later recording and periodically evaluating the outcomes of those care plans. Their role is interdisciplinary and they work with doctors, advanced practice nurses, pharmacists and even social workers to develop strategies for achieving the best possible patient outcomes. These nurses work in a variety of areas, acute and otherwise, and help push the nursing profession forward by ensuring the most current nursing practices are tested and put into place.

Nurses who wish to become clinical nurse leaders should be prepared as generalists at the master’s degree level, according to the AACN, which is pushing for the position. The degree AACN prefers is the Master of Science in Nursing, but a quick review of actual job postings reveals that many employers hire clinical nurse leaders at the bachelor’s degree level. The clinical nurse leader is not an advanced practice nurse, which is the path most nurses at the master’s degree level choose. They do, however, complement advanced practice nurses by evaluating the patient outcomes of advanced nursing care and tailoring future nursing care to replicate the successes of past nursing care.

Since the clinical nurse leader is an emerging role in today’s nursing field, average overall salaries are difficult to nail down. One can assume that even those clinical nurse leaders at the master’s degree level will generally bring in lower salaries than advanced practice nurses, who are also master’s prepared. This is because today’s clinical nurse leaders are generally younger and often have less experience. A cursory overview of job postings showed that clinical nurse leaders earn somewhere between $41,500 and $75,000, depending on experience and education. Even while the salary is not one of the highest of master’s-trained nurses, many find it rewarding to fulfill the first new role in nursing in more than 35 years and to do their part to push the profession forward.