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Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL)

The Clinical Nurse Leader option offers individuals with a degree in another field the opportunity to become a professional nurse, obtain the tools needed to thrive in an ever-changing health care system, and reshape the quality of patient care.

Overview

The Clinical Nurse Leader or CNL role was developed by AACN in collaboration with nurse leaders in academia and health care. CNLs are patient care leaders providing professional nursing care across a variety of care environments, including hospitals, long term care facilities, in the community, in the home, and more.

The CNL is an "advanced generalist" rather than an advanced practice nurse (APN) such as the clinical nurse specialist or nurse practitioner. The CNL and APN roles complement one another in the provision of high-quality, patient-centered care.

Program Details

For students who have already earned a baccalaureate or higher degree in a field other than nursing, this master's degree option provides plans of study that are either four semesters and one summer session (fall admission) or four semesters and two summer sessions (spring admission). Upon completion of the program, you’ll earn the Master of Science degree and will be eligible to sit for the NCLEX examination for licensure as a registered nurse. You are also eligible to sit for the CNL Certification Examination offered by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Commission on Nurse Certification.

For more information, check out:

Fall Admission Plan of Study

This plan of study is for students entering the CNL option in fall 2014 and subsequent fall semesters. 

Semester and Course Number/Title Credit/Clinical Hours
Fall Year 1
NURS 501: Pathophysiological and Pharmacological Bases for Nursing Practice 5 Credits 
NURS 503: Health Assessment Through the Lifespan 3 Credits
NURS 505: Introduction to Professional Nursing Practice 4 Credits
NURS 507: Introduction to Nursing Leadership and the CNL Role 3 Credits 
Total: 15 Credits 
Spring Year 1 
NURS 514: Medical Surgical Nursing 6 Credits
NURS 625: Gerontology Nursing 2 Credits 
NRSG 790: Application of Science for Evidence-based Practice 3 Credits
NRSG 795: Biostatistics for Evidence-based Practice 3 Credits 
Total: 14 Credits
Summer Year 1 
NURS 509: Maternal and Newborn Nursing 5 Credit
NURS 517: Pediatric Nursing 5 Credits
Total: 10 Credits
Fall Year 2 
NURS 508: Community/Public Health Nursing 4 Credits 
NURS 511: Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing 5 Credits
NURS 736: Technology Solutions for Generating Knowledge in Health Care 3 Credits
NRSG 780: Population Health and Promotion 3 Credits
Total: 15 Credits
Spring Year 2 
NURS 523: Clinical Nurse Leader Emphasis Practicum 8 Credits
NRSG 782: Organizational and Systems Leadership 3 Credits
Total: 11 Credits
TOTAL 65 CREDITS (4 Semesters/1 Summer Session) 

Spring Admission Plan of Study

This plan of study is for students entering the CNL program in spring 2014 and subsequent spring semesters. 

Semester and Course Number/Title Credit/Clinical Hours
Spring Year 1
NURS 501: Pathophysiological and Pharmacological Bases for Nursing Practice 5 Credits 
NURS 503: Health Assessment Through the Lifespan 3 Credits
NURS 505: Introduction to Professional Nursing Practice 4 Credits
NURS 507: Introduction to Nursing Leadership and the CNL Role 3 Credits 
Total: 15 Credits 
Summer Year 1 
NURS 517: Pediatric Nursing 5 Credits 
NURS 509: Maternal and Newborn Nursing 5 Credits
(Students may take one or both classes.) Total: 10 Credits
Fall Year 1 
NURS 514: Medical Surgical Nursing 6 Credit
NURS 625: Gerontology Nursing 2 Credits
NRSG 790: Application of Science for Evidence-based Practice 3 Credits
NRSG 795: Biostatistics for Evidence-based Practice 3 Credits
Total: 14 Credits
Spring Year 2 
NURS 508: Community/Public Health Nursing* 5 Credits
NURS 511: Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing 5 Credits
NURS 736: Technology Solutions for Generating Knowledge in Health Care 3 Credits 
NRSG 780: Population Health and Promotion 3 Credits
Total: 16 Credits
Summer Year 2 
NURS 517: Pediatric Nursing 5 Credits
NURS 509: Maternal and Newborn Nursing 5 Credits
(Students may take one or both classes.) Total: 10 Credits
Fall Year 2 
NURS 523: Clinical Nurse Leader Emphasis Practicum 8 Credits
NRSG 782: Organizational and Systems Leadership 3 Credits
Total: 11 Credits
TOTAL 65 CREDITS (4 Semesters/2 Summer Sessions) 

*NURS 508 may be taken only after completing NURS 509 and NURS 517.

Former Plans of Study

Fall Program of Study

Course Title (Credits) 16 mo. 21mo.
First Semester (Fall)
NURS 501: Pathopharmacology and Pharmacology Bases
for Nursing Practice (5)
x x
NURS 503: Health Assessment (3) x x
NURS 505: Introduction to Professional Nursing Practice (4) x x
NURS 507: Introduction to Nursing and the Clinical Nurse Leader Role (3) x x
NURS 622: Systems and Populations in Health Care (3) x  
Winter Session
NURS 625: Gerontology Nursing (3) x  
Second Semester (Spring)
NURS 511: Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing for 
Clinical Nurse Leader (5)
x  
NURS 514: Adult Health Nursing (6) x x
NURS 625: Gerontology Nursing (3)   x
NURS 701: Science and Research for Advanced Practice Nursing (4) x x
NURS 736: Informatics and Technology (3) x  
Summer Session
NURS 509: Nursing Care of the Childbearing Family (5) x x
NURS 517: Nursing Care of Infants and Children (4) x x
Third Semester (Fall)
NURS 511: Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing (5)   x
NURS 622: Systems: Populations in Health Care (3)   x
NURS 736: Informatics and Technology (3)   x
NURS 523: Clinical Nurse Leader Practicum (8) x  
NURS 525: Clinical Nurse Leader (3) x  
NURS 508:  Community Health Nursing (5) x  
Fourth Semester (Spring)
NURS 508:  Community Health Nursing (5)   x
NURS 523: Clinical Nurse Leader Practicum (8)   x
NURS 525: Clinical Nurse Leader (3)   x
Total Credits for MS CNL Option (either time-line) 64

Spring Program of Study

Course Title (Credits) 16 mo. 23 mo.
First Semester (Spring)
NURS 501: Pathopharmacology and Pharmacology Bases
for Nursing Practice (5)
x x
NURS 503: Health Assessment (3) x x
NURS 505: Introduction to Professional Nursing Practice (4) x x
NURS 507: Introduction to Nursing and the Clinical Nurse Leader Role (3) x x
NURS 622: Systems and Populations in Health Care (3) x  
Summer Session
NURS 509: Nursing Care of the Childbearing Family (5) x  
NURS 517: Nursing Care of Infants and Children (4) x x
Second Semester (Fall)
NURS 511: Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing for 
Clinical Nurse Leader (5)
x  
NURS 514: Adult Health Nursing (6) x x
NURS 625: Gerontology Nursing (3)   x
NURS 701: Science and Research for Advanced Practice Nursing (4) x x
NURS 736: Informatics and Technology (3) x  
Winter Session
NURS 625: Gerontology Nursing (3) x  
Third Semester (Spring)
NURS 511: Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing (5)   x
NURS 622: Systems: Populations in Health Care (3)   x
NURS 736: Informatics and Technology (3)   x
NURS 508:  Community Health Nursing (5) x  
NURS 523: Clinical Nurse Leader Practicum (8) x  
NURS 525: Clinical Nurse Leader (3) x  
Summer Session
*NURS 509: Nursing Care of the Childbearing Family (5)   x
Fourth Semester (Fall)
NURS 508:  Community Health Nursing (5)   x
NURS 523: Clinical Nurse Leader Practicum (8)   x
NURS 525: Clinical Nurse Leader (3)   x
Total Credits for MS CNL Option (either time-line) 64

*May be taken in Summer I with advisor permission.

Admissions Requirements

Students applying to the CNL option must have the following:

  • Prerequisite Courses:
    • General Chemistry with Lab
    • Human Anatomy and Physiology I and II with Lab
    • Microbiology with Lab
    • Human Growth and Development
    • Statistics
    • Nutrition
  • The following prerequisite science courses must also have been completed within the last 10 years in order to be eligible for consideration:
    • Chemistry
    • Anatomy & Physiology I
    • Anatomy & Physiology II
    • Microbiology

If you the meet minimum standards for admission, as part of the selection process, we’ll interview you in person. The admissions process will also include a proctored writing sample.

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What You'll Do

The CNL option prepares graduates to:

  • Design, provide and oversee the care of individuals, families, groups, and populations
  • Provide direct patient care in complex situations in a variety of settings
  • Evaluate patient outcomes, assess risk, and revise plans of care to improve outcomes
  • Practice nursing based on research evidence to assure that patients benefit from the latest care innovations
  • Collaborate with other health care professionals to plan, implement, and evaluate patient care in a variety of settings
  • Use information systems and technologies to improve healthcare outcomes
  • Advocate for patients, families, and communities

For more information on the roles, competencies, and responsibilities of the CNL, read AACN's White Paper on the Role of the Clinical Nurse Leader.

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