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Collaboration Is Key for Clinical Nurse Leaders

To be a clinical nurse leader (CNL), you must first have a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). In this degree program, CNLs are taught the clinical and management skills they need to carry out their responsibilities. Collaboration is a critical part of a CNL’s job. Without cooperation, a patient’s well-being may be jeopardized.

What Is a CNL?

The role of the CNL was established to eliminate gaps in patient care. CNLs are generalists who can work in any healthcare setting.  A CNL is prepared with advanced clinical knowledge to oversee and manage the care of patients in their unit. They lead a group of healthcare professionals who may include:

  • Nurses
  • Clinical nurse specialists
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Physicians
  • Pharmacists
  • Social workers

What Is the Job of a CNL?

CNLs are responsible for ensuring patients receive safe, quality care. The CNL communicates with and guides an interdisciplinary team to carry out best practices for stabilizing and treating patients. A CNL’s job may consist of the following:

  • Helping nursing staff identify potential problems and provide complex care.
  • Collaborating with the healthcare team.
  • Coordinating lateral integration of healthcare services.
  • Determining patient risks by documenting and appraising care plans and outcomes.
  • Facilitating collaboration among healthcare professionals involved with patients.
  • Supervising nursing staff.
  • Applying evidence-based practice to incorporate the latest innovations in medicine.
  • Facilitates quality improvement initiatives.

Do CNLs Have Difficulty Collaborating With Other Healthcare Professionals?

Yes. Sometimes CNLs face challenges when trying to form collaborative relationships. Unfortunately, obstacles may derail or complicate collaborative efforts. These behaviors and impediments can prevent collaboration. Here are a few issues that may cause problems:

  • Contrasts in personal values and expectations
  • Cultural disparities
  • A lack of respect
  • Generational differences
  • Gender bias
  • Rivalries
  • Varying levels of preparation
  • Personality clashes
  • Use of unfamiliar language and jargon
  • Unwillingness to conform to schedules and routines

What Are Five Tips for CNLs to Foster Productive Collaboration?

CNLs need to cultivate a mutually respectful work environment. Nursing staff and healthcare professionals should feel comfortable discussing their concerns. CNLs have to put aside any negative feelings about staff members in order to focus on the welfare of their patients. The rate of medical errors, injuries or fatalities can rise when there is dysfunctional communication and a lack of collaboration. Here are five tips CNLs can use to build strong collaborative relationships.

  1. Communicate Effectively – CNLs may not have a hard time communicating with nurses, since they understand the nursing practice. Still, CNLs should be clear, honest, compassionate and courteous when speaking to nurses. As for physicians and other healthcare professionals, CNLs need to recognize the preferred way each discipline approaches patient care.
  2. Lead – CNLs are in control of patient care, so they have to manage, delegate to, supervise and evaluate their team. A CNL has to share his or her expertise and guide staff to provide consistent patient care. CNLs need to utilize their critical thinking, problem-solving and organizational skills.
  3. Handle Conflicts – Conflict resolution is an essential management skill that all CNLs should possess. No workplace is free from disagreements, but CNLs need to know how to diffuse a volatile situation. They may have to calm an angry patient or family member or manage an uncooperative co-worker. No matter the circumstances, CNLs need to address a conflict by demonstrating authority, consideration and patience.
  4. Allow Team Members to Openly Share Information – Healthcare team members should be willing and able to share information without fear of being ridiculed. CNLs need to create a civil atmosphere that reinforces the value of everyone’s input. They must set clear guidelines that encourage team members to listen attentively and form constructive responses.
  5. Invite Feedback – When CNLs are receptive to feedback, they show team members that their opinions are valuable. Open dialogue allows everyone to address issues and contribute new methods that may have positive results. Not to mention, team members who can freely express themselves may be inspired to make improvements in their own performance.

Collaboration in healthcare is important because a patient’s care should not be disrupted. Patients rely on nurses to safeguard their well-being and help them recover from illnesses or injuries. Through leadership and management, CNLs can collaborate with all members of a healthcare team to develop care plans, maintain services and streamline care delivery.

Learn more about the University of Louisiana Monroe’s online Master of Science in Nursing – Clinical Nurse Leader Concentration program.


Journal of Nursing Management: Interdisciplinary Collaboration: The Role of the Clinical Nurse Leader Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) Job Description

Gebauer Company: 5 Ways Nurse Leaders Can Improve Team Cooperation How to Become a Clinical Nurse Leader

Working Nurse: Six Ways to Improve Collaboration on Nursing Teams

The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing: The Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL): Point-of-Care Safety Clinician

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