Abstract Introduction Clinical nurse consultants have been a part of the nursing workforce for some time however a lack of clarity regarding this role has led to significant variations in health service expectations, workloads and scope for the Clinical nurse consultants working within this metropolitan health service. Aim The aim of this study was to explore the role of the CNC as it is perceived by them, in the context of this health service. Method A qualitative approach was used for this study. Following ethics approval a single audio-taped focus group was undertaken to gather data. Guiding questions were used to elicit responses from the group, moderated by the co-investigators. The focus group was transcribed verbatim. Each researcher independently analysed the narrative data, using coding and clustering the data to develop primary and sub-themes. Results Whilst each participant experiences their role individually, there were four themes derived from comments expressed by the participants: ‘Diversity and conflict’, ‘Leaders but powerless’, ‘Support systems’ and ‘The portfolio holder role’. Conclusion The role of the Clinical nurse consultant is complex and diverse. The variability in the role suggests that organisational consensus of the role, scope and purpose of the CNC position has not been actualised, resulting in a lack of support systems, and an underutilisation of the Clinical nurse consultants as leaders, where they can challenge existing practice and guide future directions in care delivery.