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Five Values Needed to Be a Good Clinical Nurse Leader

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By Matt Vera BSN, R.N.

Being a clinical nurse leader is a great career choice for nurses who want to go into a specialized field or for people interested in pursuing a nursing degree in general, but to be a good one, you’ll need to practice certain values. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), along with nurse executives and nurse educators, created the clinical nurse leader (CNL) role in 2003 and 2004 in response to a report on the high number of medical errors. People in this position will: act as a resource for staff, patients and families; implement evidence-based practices and performance improvement initiatives; as well as coordinate patient care.

In a nutshell, a CNL is a nurse and a generalist whose job is to ensure that people from all health care disciplines are communicating and that everything gets done properly.

The Five Values You Need to Succeed as a Clinical Nurse Leader

The AACN created the following values, which are essential for excelling as a clinical nurse leader.

  • Altruism. A concern for the well-being of others is a must for nurses and CNLs. You will need to demonstrate an understanding of the cultures, beliefs and perspectives of others, as well as act as an advocate for clients and mentor other professionals. Plus, you will need to be motivated to help others and do your work without reward or recognition. This value is not something that can be taught, it must be instinctive. As Trieste Turner, a clinical nurse leader said, “Formal education will instill the technological aspect of the practice, but altruism must come as instinct.”
  • Accountability. This value means the right, power and competence to act. This means being able to evaluate client care and implement changes in health care practices to improve outcomes within the health care system. You will be accountable for providing high-quality, cost-effective care.
  • Human Dignity. A CNL needs to have respect for the inherent worth and uniqueness of people. The CNL will need to respect all clients and colleagues. Professionals must protect a client’s privacy, design care with sensitivity to individual client needs and act in accordance with a code of ethics and accepted standards of practice. For example, a CNL might have to care for someone in the last weeks or days of his life; you might meet with the person’s family and all people involved to safeguard his dignity as he nears the end of life.
  • Integrity. This value is reflected in professional practice when the nurse is honest and provides care based on an ethical framework. You’ll need to document care honestly and accurately, seek to remedy errors and demonstrate accountability. As a leader, you’ll need to always uphold the integrity of the profession.
  • Social Justice. Upholding moral, legal and humanistic principles is of utmost importance. You’ll need to support fairness and non-discrimination in the delivery of care, promote universal access to health care and encourage legislation and policies consistent with the advancement of nursing and health care. Practicing these values, a CNL might engage policy makers and elected officials to influence health policy, write opinion articles for local or national newspapers or build partnerships with community organizations to identify and address health disparities.

This Could Be the Career for You

Nursing is the moral center of health care and inspires continued ethical care and compassion. Clinical nurse leaders are at the forefront of individuals charged with helping to guide the way to a better health care system. Other nurses and doctors in the health care system and the community will look to you to practice the values mentioned above, and you will be expected to guide the clinical team by encouraging professional development, providing continuing education and promoting clinical excellence. The role of nurses is changing and, as a clinical nurse leader, you could help shape the future of nursing and health care.

Matt Vera, a registered nurse since 2009, leverages his experiences as a former student struggling with complex nursing topics to help aspiring nurses as a full-time writer and editor for Nurseslabs, simplifying the learning process, breaking down complicated subjects, and finding innovative ways to assist students in reaching their full potential as future healthcare providers.

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