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Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL)

The Clinical Nurse LeaderSM or CNL® is a master’s educated nurse, prepared for practice across the continuum of care within any healthcare setting. The CNL was developed by AACN in collaboration with leaders from healthcare practice and education to address the critical need to improve the quality of patient care outcomes.

The CNL is a clinical leader - at the point of care – who focuses on:

  • Care Coordination
  • Outcomes Measurement
  • Transitions of Care
  • Interprofessional Communication & Team Leadership
  • Risk Assessment
  • Implementation of Best Practices Based on Evidence
  • Quality Improvement

Learn more about the CNL 


News & Announcements

  • Louisiana Bill Threatens Certification

    April 26, 2018

    The Occupational Licensing Review Act (Louisiana House Bill 748) was introduced last month by Louisiana State Rep. Julie Emerson and passed the House by a vote of 87-7. The legislation appears to be on its way to passage in the Senate and is supported by Gov. John Bel Edwards (D).  The bill could become law by mid-May when the legislature is scheduled to adjourn. If the bill passes, the risks to certification programs could eventually expand far beyond the state of Louisiana.

  • AACN Announces Award Winners for the 2018 CNL Awards

    February 14, 2018

    AACN is pleased to announce the latest winners of the annual CNL Awards, which recognize the innovative work of certified CNLs in practice and education.

  • CNC Call for Volunteers

    December 1, 2017

    The Commission on Nurse Certification is now accepting applications for three available positions on the CNC Board of Commissioners (CNCBOC), three positions on the Marketing Committee and four positions on the Item Writers Committee. CNCBOC and Item Writer positions require a three-year commitment. Marketing Committee positions require a two-year commitment. Click here to find the guidelines and application for each position or contact CNC’s Staff at for more information.

  • New Recommended CNL Practice Experiences

    June 13, 2017

    AACN has released a list of 24 experiences that are deemed to be critical for preparing CNL graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to effectively perform in diverse practice settings and systems upon graduation. The list was developed by an Expert Panel comprised of CNL faculty, representatives from practice, and practicing CNLs.

  • CNC Welcomes New Board of Commissioners and Item Writers

    June 1, 2017

    Congratulations to the New CNC Board of Commissioners (CNCBOC) and Item Writers who will start their terms on July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2020. CNC staff, current CNCBOC members and Item Writers look forward to their contributions.

  • AACN Announces CNL Visionary Leader and Vanguard Awards

    January 24, 2017

    AACN is pleased to announce that Dr. Elizabeth Murphy, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Mercy Health Saint Mary's, is the recipient of the 2017 CNL Visionary Leader Award. The highest honor presented by AACN to practice leaders making significant contributions to advancing the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) initiative, this award will be presented at the 2017 CNL Summit in Atlanta, GA on February 22, 2017. The CNL Vanguard Award, which recognizes the innovative work of CNL-certified nurses and CNL nurse educators, will also be presented to Dr. Bonnie Haupt from South Texas VA Healthcare System and Dr. Tricia Thomas from Grand Valley State University.