On the Horizon

Monday is the first day of spring term. It’s my LAST first day of the semester! We’re just about to the 100-day mark and I couldn’t be more ready.

Perusing our syllabi, I noticed that we will be doing a lot of preparation for the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) certification exam. Which brings me (and many people I know) to the inevitable question: What am I going to do with this degree and this credential?

To be honest, your guess is as good as mine. 😉

The beauty and the curse about the CNL role is that you graduate equipped with a skill set rather than an advanced practice license. The CNL competencies include such abilities as systems analyst/risk anticipator, clinician, advocate, team and information manager, educator and outcomes manager (see my literature review for more details). The beauty is that you can take this skill set anywhere and theoretically be able to apply what you have learned in a variety of roles. The curse is that because the role can be so broadly applied, there are not many jobs out there specifically for “CNLs”.

Since it’s still a relatively new role in nursing, there is also a lot of confusion and misinformation. Most health care professionals at least generally understand where Nurse Practitioners and Clinical Nurse Specialists fit into the picture. Not so much with CNLs. A lot of people assume we are on track to be managers or health care administrators but in actuality we are supposed to be in the trenches/at the bedside. Very few health care systems have figured out where we fit in at the microsystem level. The VA has embraced the role but different facilities are implementing it at different rates. Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle (which is on the cutting edge of pretty much everything) has also successfully integrated CNLs into its workforce.

So for the most part we are paving our own way. Many previous graduates have taken jobs as care coordinators/case managers, unit educators, professional practice leaders, or unit managers. Others are applying the CNL skill set where they were working before they graduated, without a title (or promotion/pay raise) to accompany the skill level. And then there those who have been hired as CNLs where the positions are available.

So the world is apparently my oyster. But the thing about oysters is you have to shuck them to get to the good stuff. In other words, it will take a lot of energy and effort to demonstrate what we can offer to the health care workforce.

Where does that leave me after May 5? I’m taking an optimistic “wait and see” approach…

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