Clinical Nurse Leader

Description Objectives Curriculum Experience Next Steps

Program Description

Regis is pleased to announce a clinical partnership with Brigham & Women’s Hospital (BWH) in offering a Master’s in Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL). This 38-credit graduate nursing program is approved by ACEN and open to registered nurses (RNs) who currently work at BWH. Students attend this program on a part-time basis finishing in two years and one additional semester.

As part of the partnership, nurses complete 400 clinical hours on-site at the BWH. For the program’s classroom component, students attend 50% of classes at the Regis campus and 50% at BWH. The first course, Concepts in Nursing Leadership, runs as an intensive at BWH from October 1 – November 30.

Clinical Nurse Leader is one of the most innovative management programs in the nursing profession today. The demand for CNLs continues to grow in a variety of healthcare environments, including hospitals, clinics, skilled rehabilitation centers, physician practices, schools, public health agencies and more. The Bureau for Labor Statistics reports that this occupation will increase by 20% over the next five years.

Distinct from other advanced-practice roles, the CNL professional operates at the clinical versus administrative level. CNLs design, implement and evaluate patient care systems while providing clinical leadership and coordination to the entire health care team.

Clinical Nurse Leaders work as

  • Clinicians – providing care to all populations across the lifespan to promote health and risk reduction services
  • Outcomes Managers – analyzing data and information to ensure optimal client outcomes
  • Client Advocates – ensuring patients, families, and communities are well-informed serving as nursing professionals and healthcare team advocates
  • Educators – utilizing technology to teach evidence-based principles and strategies to clients and healthcare professionals
  • Information Managers – utilizing information systems and technology to improve healthcare outcomes
  • Systems Analysts/Risk Anticipators – reviewing client care delivery quality to anticipate risks to prevent medical error
  • Team Managers – delegating and managing resources and serving as leader and partner of the interdisciplinary healthcare team
  • Professional Members – acquiring the latest knowledge and skills to change healthcare practices and outcomes
  • Lifelong Learners – recognizing the value of the pursuit of new knowledge and skills


Program Objectives

In today’s complex health care environment registered nurses are expected to play a key role in addressing critical healthcare issues across the nation. The Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL®) Master’s Program in Nursing at Regis prepares nurses to become a leader who is able to address these complex issues and practice along the continuum of care in any healthcare setting. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2013) states that CNLs are expected to “assume accountability for patient care outcomes through the assimilation and application of evidence-based information to design, implement, and evaluate patient care processes and models of care delivery”. CNLs are across the country are providing evidence of the important and essential role they play in improving health care outcomes through quality management and evidence-based practice. Graduates of the Regis CNL program are prepared to be expert clinicians, educators, advocates, outcome and information managers who are leaders for the profession of nursing.

CNL Role

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) collaborated with nurse leaders in academic and practice settings to develop the CNL role in 2003. If you are interested in learning more about the first new role established in nursing in over three decades, please visit the AACN CNL website to answer the question, What is a CNL?



The Regis CNL program is intended for individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing. The part-time plan of study for students in the CNL program is designed to support individuals who are working and interested in pursuing graduate education. A total of 38 credits is required for graduation. Students are admitted in a cohort, usually a group of 15 or more RNs, and progress through the program with their cohort peers. The average program length is approximately 2 ½ years. Classes are typically held on a weekday evening at the practice partnership site with on-line assignments in between.

Course work for CNL students reflects national recommendations and requirements for this unique role in nursing. Students will take courses in three core components: core graduate nursing courses designed for all students in a master’s nursing program; courses designed for the graduate level nurse who will be providing direct care; and a combination of course work and learning experiences specific to the role of the CNL. Students will take courses in quality management, advanced research/evidence-based practice, informatics, nursing leadership, ethics, health policy and promotion, nursing theory, as well as advanced pathophysiology, health assessment, and pharmacology. Shared course work with Regis students in the School of Health Sciences provides students with important inter-professional learning opportunities. CNL specific courses prepare students for the unique aspects of the CNL role in any healthcare setting.


The CNL master’s degree program at Regis is accredited through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN CCNE).

CNL Certification

Upon completion of the CNL program at Regis, students will be eligible to sit for the CNL Certification Examination offered by the Commission on Nurse Certification (CNC). Candidates who successfully pas the CNL Certification Examination proudly earn the credential of "CNL".

For more information on the CNL Certification, please visit the AACN CNL Certification website. Additional information about CNL certification and the CNL role may be found on the website for the Clinical Nurse Leader Association (CNLA).


Gaining Experience

One of the hallmark strengths of CNL program across the country is the academic-practice partnerships between schools of nursing and health care organizations. At Regis, our CNL program is a true collaboration between the university and the healthcare organizations we partner with. CNLs are admitted into the master’s program through an established partnership with an organization. Regis and the practice partner collaborate to provide on-site courses and coordinate clinical placements in the final two semesters of the program.

Current hospital partners

  • Brigham & Women’s Hospital


Next Steps

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Whether you are an individual nurse who would like to find out more about the CNL Master’s program at Regis or an administrator in a healthcare organization interested in establishing a formal academic-practice partnership please contact the director of the CNL program at Regis for more information:

Helene Bowen Brady, DNP, M.Ed, RN-BC
Associate Professor & Director of the Clinical Nurse Leader Program



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