What is the Difference Between Nurse Leader and Clinical Nurse Leader?

In short terms, leadership refers to one’s willingness to take responsibility, manage processes, and people and improve them.

The leadership definition applies to the nursing environment.

Some people use the terms clinical nurse leader and nurse leader as synonyms, but there is a slight difference.

Nurse Leader and Clinical Nurse Leader are focused on interprofessional terms,  but their influence is different.

The Clinical Nurse Leader role is getting more popular as there is a rise in accrediting agencies.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing offers certification for the Clinical Nurse Leader.

Clinical Nurse Leader takes care of the critical needs of the patient but also does plenty of other things such as care coordination, risk assessment, quality assessment, and improvement.

The role of the Clinical Nurse Leader requires a Master’s Degree in Nursing.

The basic purpose of the Clinical Nurse Leaders is to coordinate the connection between other nurses, patients, and healthcare facility top management.

The CNL – Clinical Nurse Leader provides care throughout the entire treatment process and doesn’t have to focus on a specific part of the population.

It means that a CNL isn’t an advanced practice registered nurse and is different from CNS – Clinical Nurse Specialist.

The requirements and education for CNL and CNS are similar.

CNLs commonly work in acute-care hospitals or inpatient settings.

On the contrary, Nurse Leader – NL is a nurse on a leadership position either formal on informal.

NLs review the development of the medical staff, business development, and process improvements or issue.

Nurse Leaders can be found in all healthcare settings.

For example, a nurse with ADN who manages a small rural Indian Health clinic is a Nurse Leader.

At the same time, the Chief Nursing Officers (CNO) with a DNP degree, who in charge of a 500-bed teaching hospital in Chicago is also a Nurse Leader.

Some facilities require nurses to hold a Nurse Leader certificate, so they can turn to the American Organization for Nursing Leadership and take the necessary exam.

On the other hand, informal nurse leaders can have the same influence as formal nurse leaders with certifications.

For example, a charismatic nurse in the ICU who enjoys high respect from coworkers and decide to step back from the leadership is still a Nurse Leader.

Some professionals state that every nurse is a nurse leader because he or she leads patients and families toward better health and improved lifestyle.

The similarities between the roles of the Nurse Leader and Clinical Nurse Leader are the same principles, the wide range of possible work settings, continuous care for the patients, etc.

Both nurses nurture a holistic model of care, and address the patient’s needs, the needs of the family and represent the interest of the community they serve.

The difference is in the primary focus.

Clinical Nurse Leader focuses on the individual care plans and the effects of it on patients and overall health care facilities.

Nurse leader focuses on the optimization of the healthcare processes and clinical operations.

Both roles work to improve the safety and quality of the department and facility.

They mentor new leaders and support the development of nursing research.

All nurses who are a positive influence on their work environment are informal nurse leaders.

When a nurse undergoes formal training and obtains certification, he or she gets formal validation of its skills and knowledge.

Whichever path you choose, bear in mind that leadership in nursing is very rewarding and has plenty of opportunities.

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