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J Healthc Manag. 2006 Jan-Feb;51(1):19-25.

Opportunities for improving patient care through lateral integration: the clinical nurse leader.

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  • 1Division of Health Services Research and Policy, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA.


Today, healthcare organizations are faced with the growing realization that functional and professional silos within the organization are counter to the provision of efficient and effective patient care and are fertile grounds for errors or sentinel events to occur. The improvement of patient care and prevention of errors require that collaboration among professionals occur at the patient care delivery level, not just within the leadership team. A new nursing role-the clinical nurse leader, the first new nursing role advanced nationally in more than three decades--currently is under development in more than 180 pilot healthcare delivery sites across the United States and Puerto Rico. The clinical nurse leader is a master's-prepared nurse who assumes accountability for healthcare outcomes for a specific group of clients within a unit or setting through the assimilation and application of research-based information to design, implement, and evaluate client plans of care. The clinical nurse leader serves as a lateral integrator for the healthcare team and facilitates, coordinates, and oversees the care provided by the healthcare team. Healthcare administrators should seize the opportunity to work with nurses in healthcare delivery organizations to influence the early evolution and diffusion of this new role.

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