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Clinical Nurse Leaders

The clinical nurse leader (CNL) is a fast-emerging nursing role at Gundersen Health System. Gundersen implemented the CNL role in July 2010 as part of its patient and family-centered care initiative.

Unlike other advanced practice nurses, a CNL is a masters-prepared nurse generalist who works with an interdisciplinary team at the bedside (or microsystem level). The CNL promotes group processes to achieve integration of care for a distinct group of patients.

In their day-to-day work, CNLs are responsible for:

  • Overseeing patient care management
  • Promoting collaboration among interdisciplinary staff
  • Improving patient outcomes
  • Promoting the implementation of evidence-based practice
  • Assessing safety risk, with a focus on quality improvement and error prevention
  • Coordinating and leveraging human, environmental and material resources
  • Identifying and communicating barriers and alternatives for changes
  • Practicing advanced advocacy skills
  • Creating opportunities for education and mentoring
  • Providing direct patient care, as needed

Gundersen CNLs work on the following hospital units:

  • Cardio-Pulmonary
  • Inpatient Rehabilitation
  • Medical & Oncology
  • Neurosciences 
  • Orthopaedics
  • Surgical & Digestive Care

Help lead positive change

CNLs have demonstrated success in improving the quality of patient care, staff satisfaction and cost savings to both patients and organizations. In hospitals that have implanted this role, CNLs have played key roles in reducing catheter-related bloodstream infections, improving new graduate registered nurse recruitment and retention rates, and increasing revenue in surgeries by decreasing cancellations.

what to expect

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