Nov 22, 2011

The Unique Path of a Clinical Nurse Leader

There are numerous pathways to becoming a Clinical Nurse Leader. The program lends itself to a diverse group of students, as there are no restrictions on the required undergraduate degree – as long as certain prerequisites are met. That being said, I thought it might be interesting to highlight the members of the cohort with whom I’m studying at the University of New Hampshire.

They truly are amazing individuals, striving through one of the most difficult programs and periods of their lives together because they hope to make a difference in the nursing profession.

What other nursing classroom in New Hampshire could you sit in and glance to your left at a thirty-year-old mother chatting about her 2- and 4-year old children; to your right and see a middle-aged man with a military crew cut fiddling with a tape-recorder; and straight ahead at a fresh-out-of-undergraduate woman color coordinating her notes? Add another 19 students ranging in age from 22 to 42, covering fields of study from archeology, to graphic design, to acupuncture, who all realized at some point along the way they wanted to switch gears and become a nurse.

Reaching the halfway point of this accelerated program has proven to be a test in survival skills. No one individual would have been at this point if not for the one sitting next to him or her; it’s been a real team effort. Anyone in this group would vouch for a sense of cohesion that has never been experienced. We’ve become almost like a family and are not competitive with each other, but, instead, genuinely supportive. This sort of respect and encouragement is the epitome of the CNLs role: empowering one another, transferring knowledge, continually communicating and collaborating.

But unfortunately, continual judgment is passed on this group of CNLs and other programs like this, for the program offers the opportunity to receive a master’s degree in nursing without going through a previous nursing curriculum, nor earning a previous nursing degree. Some veteran nurses are shocked to hear this. Others may even be insulted.

What we hope to prove collectively is not only ourselves as capable of the challenge and worthy of the profession, but also that this track offers a priceless combination of mind power, innovation, and knowledge. If you compile a group of type-A, self-competitive, driven people and put them in an accelerated year-round program, the outcomes can be truly amazing and innovative. Generation of ideas is incredible. Professors are often struggling to get through lectures due to the amount of questions and discussions that are held.

We may not step on the floor at the end of the program with the perceived equivalent clinical experience of other masters prepared nurses, but our life experiences and academics will guide us as we continue to learn and grow throughout our careers.

- Jessica Hatch, Nursing Student, University of New Hampshire

To hear more about Jessica and the clinical nurse leader role, see her first post here.