As the healthcare system changes and roles evolve, case managers should look for opportunities like the clinical nurse leader program to gain the skills they need to succeed, suggests Donna Hopkins, MS, RN, CMAC, vice president at Novia Strategies, a national healthcare consulting firm.

The role expectations for case managers and social workers are changing from a focus on the acute episode to a focus on care throughout the continuum, Hopkins says. Programs like the clinical nurse leader (CNL) can prepare case managers for their new role, she says. “We need to have case managers with critical thinking skills who are knowledgeable about care coordination and who know how to engage patients and keep them engaged,” she says.

CNL is a relatively new nursing role that was developed in the United States to prepare highly skilled nurses focused on the improvement of quality and safety outcomes for patients or patient populations.

The American Association of College Nursing created the clinical nurse leader position in 2003, Hopkins says. “Much of the curriculum focuses on care coordination and transition planning and is synonymous with what hospitals want their acute care case managers to grow toward,” she adds, predicting that the program will be the next source for future case managers.

“The clinical nurse leader is a career path that may not be well-known, but the clinical nurse leader curriculum fits well with what I think the RN case manager role can evolve to,” she says.

Clinical nurse leaders must earn a master’s degree from a CNL education program and sit for the certification examination given by the Commission on Nurse Certification.

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