If you are interested in pursuing a master’s degree as a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) in Massachusetts, all roads lead to Regis, the only CNL program in the State and one of the very few in the Northeast.

Any recipient of this versatile graduate degree, which prepares students to serve in multiple nursing leadership, clinical practice or nurse educator roles in any health care setting, can tell you of its value from personal experience.

Christopher Day MSN ’21“I wouldn’t be in the Nurse Administrator role at the BWH [Brigham and Women’s Hospital] without my CNL,” says Christopher Day MSN ’21. “The CNL program motivated me to apply for this position.”

CNL: Am I Eligible?

The caveat? To be eligible, you must work at one of the health care organizations that currently have a partnership agreement with Regis such as Brigham and Women's Hospital, Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital, BI/Lahey Health, and Hebrew SeniorLife. If you have a bachelor's degree in nursing and are employed at any of these organizations, you may apply for admission and receive up to a 25% reduction in tuition costs.

Between the Department of Veterans Affairs and BWH, Day had worked as an RN for 30 years before he decided “it was time to look at how I can make a difference for the patients at the BWH and the dedicated nurses, PCAs and other staff not only on specific units but organization wide.”

Veterans often become nurses but Day’s military service followed his work as an RN. His ambition since childhood was to follow in the footsteps of his father who served in WWII, but his dad was also a podiatrist and Christopher watched him “go the extra mile” for his patients and saw the special relationship he had with nurses. A member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve for 27 years, Day finally completed his service as Lt. Colonel last year.

“I was planning to retire from the USAFR within six months of accepting the Nursing Administrator role, I was going to miss it tremendously and continue to miss it,” Day recalls. “I wanted to stay being a leader and the best option for me to use my clinical expertise, nursing knowledge and leadership knowledge made sense.”

From the Bedside to the Other Side: A Nurse Applies her Leadership Skills

Not everyone who pursues a CNL initially aspires to be a leader. Some even require some gentle persuasion.

Julie Cadogan CNL ’19, MSN, RNC-NIC, CNL“Honestly, I never thought I would leave the bedside clinical aspect of nursing,” recalls Julie Cadogan CNL ’19, MSN, RNC-NIC, CNL. Today, she is nurse director in the BWH Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the largest in Massachusetts and second largest in New England.

Although Cadogan is the first nurse in her family, her mother and three sisters all worked in healthcare. She was drawn to the profession by a nursing assistant experience as an undergraduate and spent nearly thirteen years, first as a medical surgical RN, then as a neonatal intensive care nurse at the Brigham. A colleague asked her to consider a new role as Professional Development Manager that required extensive knowledge about clinical care and would be part of the leadership team in the NICU. The opportunity provided a way to be “part of conversations that inevitably led to changes in care at the bedside.”

Cadogan began researching both online and hybrid programs, seeking one which, she explained, would be “comprehensive, accessible, flexible, and worth my efforts juggling a full-time nursing job.” She knew that BWH has partnered with Regis to offer onsite courses for RNs. She signed up for one to see how it would feel to be back in school.

“I enjoyed being in classes with other nurses, both from the Brigham as well as other hospitals. We all came with our unique backgrounds and it allowed me to create new relationships outside the walls of the NICU to expand to other areas of the hospital.” Classes were held onsite in the evenings which, she said, “was incredibly convenient for all of us.”

Clinical Nurse Leader: The Takeaway

Every nurse has a unique story and reason for pursuing a CNL, but Regis Associate Professor Helene Bowen Brady, DNP, MEd, RN-BC, director of the Clinical Nurse Leader Program, believes that “a shared commitment to advancing their education is the similarity.” Day and Cadogan, she notes, were “working full-time, taking challenging courses and balancing personal responsibilities in their lives as well. For Chris, that included his role in the reserves as an additional component of his life to balance."

(Ret.) Lt. Col. Day sees his degree as a catalyst for his transition to Nursing Administrator.

“I feel that the CNL program was the best fit for me to achieve both my educational goals and professional goals. It allowed me to still be the clinical leader that I am and assist my fellow nurses that are hands on with patient care so we both can collaborate to achieve the best patient outcomes.”

Cadogan, too, attributes many aspects of the CNL program to her abilities as a nurse director:

“Not only the diverse class topics but also how to organize my time, speak in front of groups, and advocate for myself in terms of when I needed help or clarification in certain classes. I loved being a clinical nurse but am lucky to be in a position where I can hopefully have a positive influence on both staff and the patients that they take care of.”