Clinical Nurse Leader Program

Why Choose the CNL Program?

The Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) was developed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing alongside nursing executives and other health care leaders nationally to recognize master’s-level clinicians who “bring a high level of clinical competence to the point of care and serve as a resource for the health care team.” 

The scope of CNL practice includes facilitating innovative practice change and improving systems of care. Clinical Nurse Leaders will be prepared to influence the way health care is delivered to address increasing expectations for high quality and value health care.

The University of Rochester School of Nursing was one of the first to offer a master’s degree aligned with the requirements of CNL certification and offers the only CNL program in Upstate NY.

Become a leader in your health care organization by enrolling in the CNL master’s program at the UR School of Nursing. Through the CNL program, you’ll learn how to coordinate the specialized care of a high-risk group of patients, putting the latest evidence-based practices into action to ensure the best possible health outcomes for all.

While CNL nurses continue to work directly with individual patients, they also gain a big picture understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by the broader patient base and health care system. At the UR School of Nursing, you’ll collaborate with nurses and other health professionals who work at the complex intersection of clinical care, population health, and health care management to focus on safety and quality. You’ll learn from faculty who are experts in their fields and actively practice. 

In addition to coursework in subjects like nursing leadership, clinical outcomes management, and advanced health assessment, every CNL student will complete 400 hours of immersion experiences in which they take on the leadership role of a CNL in their workplace. After completing all coursework and clinical experiences, students will be prepared to sit for the CNL certification exam.

Other options:

The CNL track is one of two leadership programs which lead to a master’s degree. The UR School of Nursing also offers the Health Care Organization Management and Leadership track.

We also offer a Post-Master’s CNL Certificate Program and a CNL-Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program.

Program Requirements and Application Process

Start your online application today. The Clinical Nurse Leader program is designed for licensed registered nurses who already hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing. The full list of admission requirements to the CNL program include:

  • a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited school
  • a minimum of three years of employment as a registered nurse in a clinical setting
  • cumulative GPA of 3.0 preferred
  • resume/CV
  • CPR certification
  • RN licensure within the United States or a U.S. territory
  • statistics course with a grade C or above
  • professional goal statement
  • writing sample (academic paper, clinical document, or publication)
  • clinical practice example relating to patient care which describes what happened, the intent, and the outcomes of actions and interactions with other members of the health care team
  • two letters of reference that address clinical expertise and leadership talent (one of which is from an immediate supervisor)
  • interview with a faculty member
  • for international students, TOEFL with a minimum score of 560 (paper-based), 230 (computer-based) or 88 (iBT)

Application Deadlines

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis with a formal cohort start date each fall. Program prerequisites and selected program courses may also be taken as a non-matriculated student in spring and summer semesters.
  • Rolling Admissions
  • Application fee is $50.

Program Costs

Tuition for the CNL program for the 2017-18 academic calendar year is:

Program Duration

The program can be completed in as few as 2.5 years of part-time study including all clinical fieldwork experiences.
The part-time CNL program is 35 credits, and students can take one or two courses per semester, depending on their schedule.
Bob Dorman
Now, I can see much more clearly how my CNL education relates to my current job. I oversee the quality of care of pediatric trauma patients transitioning from prevention to emergency medical services to the hospital to rehabilitation, and I think that's what defines what a CNL should be doing.
Robert Dorman, MS, RN-BC, CCRN, C-NPT, CNL, pediatric trauma program manager
Luis Rosario-McCabe
[The CNL program] is what I needed in my career, to get to places I never imagined I wanted to be. For me, it shifted the focus of my career to population health, instead of just my panel of patients.
Luis Rosario-McCabe, MS, RN, WHNP-BC, CNL, senior nurse practitioner at the Women's Center at Lattimore
Linda Schmitt
Completing my graduate education allowed me to return to a clinical role as a nurse manager, which I don’t think I would have done without the new knowledge and confidence I gained... I’m thankful for the chance to help others grow and develop.
Linda Schmitt, MS, RN-BC, CNL, senior nursing manager at Strong Memorial Hospital, '12