The clinical nurse leader: a catalyst for improving quality and patient safety


Joan M. Stanley
One Dupont Circle NW
Suite 530
DC 20036


Aim  The clinical nurse leader (CNL®) is a new nursing role introduced by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). This paper describes its potential impact in practice.

Background  Significant pressures are being placed on health care delivery systems to improve patient care outcomes and lower costs in an environment of diminishing resources.

Method  A naturalistic approach is used to evaluate the impact the CNL has had on outcomes of care. Case studies describe the CNL implementation experiences at three different practice settings within the same geographic region.

Results  Cost savings, including improvement on Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) core measures, are realized quickly in settings where the CNL role has been integrated into the care delivery model.

Conclusions  With the growing calls for improved outcomes and more cost-effective care, the CNL role provides an opportunity for nursing to lead innovation by maximizing health care quality while minimizing costs.

Implications for nursing management  Nursing is in a unique position to address problems that plague the nation’s health system. The CNL represents an exciting and promising opportunity for nursing to take a leadership role, in collaboration with multiple practice partners, and implement quality improvement and patient safety initiatives across all health care settings.