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!

How to Apply

Review the eligibility and application requirements for the Clinical Nurse Leader program before starting your online application.

Program eligibility requirements include:

  • a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited school
  • RN licensure within the United States or a U.S. territory
  • one year of clinical experience preferred
  • CPR certification (professional course must be taken with the American Heart Association)
  • statistics course with a grade of C or above. (For those who do not currently meet the requirement, we offer an online, self-paced statistics course which can be completed in as little as four weeks)

Admission to matriculated programs, and transfer credit approval, requires previously earned coursework to have been earned from an institution accredited by a USDE (U.S. Department of Education) or CHEA (Council for Higher Education Accreditation) approved accrediting agency. Transfer credit from institutions meeting accreditation requirements shall be approved upon review of course content and alignment with learning outcomes. Nursing degrees must also be accredited through an approved professional agency, such as Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), or Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

To complete your online application you will need the following:

  • official transcripts from all schools attended, including prerequisites (cumulative GPA of 3.0 preferred)
  • resume or CV
  • professional goal statement
  • writing sample (academic paper, clinical document, or publication)
  • two letters of reference that address clinical expertise and leadership talent (one from an immediate supervisor)
  • for international students, refer to the International Applicants webpage for additional requirements
We do not require any standardized test scores as admission criteria for the CNL program. Please send all supplemental application materials to:
Admissions Office
University of Rochester School of Nursing
601 Elmwood Avenue
Rochester, NY 14642

For more information about other CNL program options (besides the traditional master's program) please see:

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