Advice re: Clinical Nurse Leader Certification


So, I have been an RN for two years now and am working on finishing up my MSN degree in the next couple of months. Technically, my program culminates in our ability to sit for the CNL exam (Clinical Nurse Leader). I am working on practicum hours as a CNL student at the moment and have been finding that while I can see how the role can be beneficial, I just don't think it's right for me. I have absolutely zero interest in working as a CNL. In fact, I love my job so much as a staff nurse that I honestly don't see myself leaving it in the next 5 or so years. Since I have been in school since high school, I want to take the next few years of my life to focus on continuing in my career and starting a family. I am not looking for any drastic job changes in the near future. I mostly got roped into the MSN program because I enrolled in an alternate entry MSN program, and thought, well might as well go along and finish it. Also I wanted to be done with school completely prior to having a family. I do hope to go into nursing education some day, with my MSN, but that is several several years down the line as I believe nurses should have many years of experience before advancing to another role. But nothing wrong with having that formal education out of the way.

So my question I pay the $350 for the damn CNL test (w/ a $300 renewal fee every 5 years) or do I just forget about it and enjoy my MSN. Note that there are currently absolutely no places that require having a "CNL" certification in my local area, that I am never planning on leaving the area, nor am I planning on ever commuting to somewhere else for a CNL job.

It seems as though everyone else in my program has decided to take the exam even if they don't think they will get a CNL job, because they figure they've come this far and might as well take it. I see it more as an unnecessary expense plus I don't even want anyone at my place of employment to know I'm a "CNL" because no one where I live even knows what that means.

Please advise. Thanks. :)


5 Articles; 404 Posts

Specializes in Hem/Onc/BMT. Has 11 years experience.

Hi ricki, I don't have advice for you but I wanted to tell you how it was for me. I graduated from a similar program and I am also tremendously enjoying working as a staff nurse right now with no CNL aspirations. I did learn a lot from the CNL portion of the program which I'm sure will benefit me in my career but I knew that such a role was not really for me. I saw how some of my colleagues were very enthusiastic about the role and excited to be one -- and I'm excited for them! -- but quite a few did not take the exam, including myself.

I debated on it for a while wondering, "shouldn't I at least get the certification so I can show what my MSN was for?" But in the end, I could not justify spending that much for something that I was sure I would not pursue. And as for the uncomfortable fact of having an MSN when I'm only a new grad RN, I think of my master's as the achievement at a purely academic level, a culmination of my scholastic endeavors over the years rather than of being an advanced practice RN which most people associate MSN with.

I think it's worth it to get CNL if you strongly support the role and ready to be a pioneer. If you're certain you won't be using it, why waste the money? Get other certifications that fit your practice and professional goals instead. You can always take CNL exam in the future if you change your mind.

Whatever you decide, good luck to you and congratulations on your impending graduation!

nurseprnRN, BSN, RN

2 Articles; 5,114 Posts

There's the old saying of the gods listen to the plans of men and laugh.

Right now you plan to stay at bedside. Right now you plan never to be in a leadership position. Right now you plan on never leaving the area. Listen: do you hear the gods chuckling?

Do it now and you won't have to make time in your life for it later.

klone, MSN, RN

14,490 Posts

Specializes in OB-Gyn/Primary Care/Ambulatory Leadership. Has 17 years experience.

definitely get the certification. You say NOW what you want for the future, but you can't know for sure how you will feel in 5 years. When I was a nurse of just a couple years, I knew that all I ever wanted to be was an L&D floor nurse. Fast forward several years, and not only am I no longer a floor nurse, but I'm doing my MSN to go into administration.

You just never know. Get the certification.

allnurses Guide

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 46 years experience.

Get the certification while you can. The longer you put it off, the harder it will be to "go back" and get it. As others have said, you never know what the future may hold -- and how/when that certification may come in handy. I know if I were hiring someone with your academic preparation, I would wonder what was the problem with your becoming certified. Did you try to take the test and fail? Did you have no ambition? No forsight? etc.

It's not that much money in the long run. It seems like a lot now, but in the long run it's not that much to pay for a significant enhancement to your professional credentials.

More and more hospitals have or are pursuing Magnet certification. Certification is something the Magnet Program encourages and Magnet hospitals need to demonstrate that they encourage certification for their employers. That means that RN's are more attractive as employees if they are certified. Get it done now while the material is still fresh in your mind and you have resources to help you prepare.