Clinical Nurse Leader

Clinical Nurse Leader Program

Why Choose the CNL Program?

Become a leader in your health care organization by earning your master’s degree as a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL). As system thinkers and change agents, CNLs influence the way health care and patient care is delivered.

The University of Rochester School of Nursing was one of the first institutions to offer a master’s degree aligned with the CNL certification, and we are the only CNL program in Upstate NY. We also offer a unique CNL-DNP program curriculum to expand the number of doctorally prepared nurses in scholarly clinical and leadership practice working to transform health care delivery.

While CNLs can 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.

Learn how to expand your current role or take on a new role to improve patient care in a rapidly evolving health care system. Our graduates, equipped to put evidence-based practice into action, lead the way as care coordinators, clinical informaticists, unit educators, program coordinators, nurse managers, and nurse executives.

Opportunities for CNLs are limitless!

Applying to the CNL Program

The UR School of Nursing uses a comprehensive, holistic review process during which each application receives individual consideration. We seek applicants who clearly understand the Clinical Nurse Leader role, are motivated and prepared to pursue this program of study with a focus on leadership and performance improvement, and are committed to upholding the values of the school and the profession.   

To complete your application, you will need to create an account and complete all sections of the application. After you complete your application you may be invited to interview with members of our Admissions Review Committee. We look forward to reviewing your application.


  • Official transcripts from all schools attended
  • Two letters of recommendation from academic or professional references
  • Current resume or CV
  • Current RN license
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores: if English is not your first language

For details on how to submit these materials, reference How to Complete an Application and the directions in the online application system. For more information about other CNL program options (besides the traditional master's program) please see:

Start your application

Application Deadlines

Program prerequisites and selected program courses may also be taken as a non-matriculated student in spring and summer semesters.
    • For a September start date
      The application deadline is the prior April 15.
    • For a January start date
      The application deadline is the prior Sept. 15.
    • For a May start date
      The application deadline is the prior Jan. 15.

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 36 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