CNL Educator Award Winners

2018 Winner

Christine “Tina” Ralyea, DNP, MS-NP, MBA, NE-BC, CNL, OCN, CCRN began teaching in the CNL program at Queens University of Charlotte in 2015 after becoming a certified CNL herself. In addition to her educator role, she serves as a full-time nursing administrator and CNL program director at Carolinas Medical Center, a Level 1 trauma center. As an avid voice and promoter of the role, Dr. Ralyea recognizes the dire need for the CNL and its potential impact on healthcare and patient outcomes. She tirelessly advocates for the CNL with academic and practice partners, including executive administrators, community advocates, and professional teammates.

2017 Winner

Tricia Thomas, PhD, RN, FACHE, NEA-BC, ACNS-BC, CNL, currently serves as the Assistant Dean for Practice at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dr. Thomas earned her PhD from Walden University in 2006 and her MSN and BSN from the University of Michigan. She is a fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives and is board certified in Healthcare Management, Advanced Nursing Administration, Adult Health, and as a CNL. Dr. Thomas' work with CNLs started in 2007, when she pioneered the development and implementation of the CNL role at University of Detroit Mercy in partnership with Trinity Health. She developed and implemented CNL curriculum, served as the CNL Program Coordinator and faculty advisor, and implemented a CNL cohort model across Michigan. In each role she has successfully demonstrated her commitment to leadership, advocacy, innovation, consultation, and mentorship, while transforming clinical care through workforce strategies that enhance professional practice.

2016 Winner

Sally O'Toole Gerard, DNP, RN, CNL, CDE, is a leader in the CNL movement who has been involved in the development and support of the national CNL initiative since its inception. Currently serving as a professor at Fairfield University, she found new ways to enhance the curriculum and expanded enrollment with a parallel master's program in nursing leadership that won the AACN Innovations in Professional Nursing Education Award. In addition to her innovative teaching and learning practices, Dr. Gerard maintains an active clinical practice at Stamford Hospital in which she works as a certified diabetes nurse education. Her research, recently published in Journal of Professional Nursing, Nurse Leader and The Diabetes Educator, demonstrate her clinical and academic scholarship. Dr. Gerard is a long-time advocate for the CNL role. In addition to her dedication to curricular innovation, she has shared nationally her expertise on curriculum development, program design, project outcomes and the need for a more highly prepared workforce. 

2015 Winner

Linda Roussel, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, CNL, is a forerunner in the CNL movement who currently serves as a full professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. She recognized early on the need for nurses prepared with the CNL skill set and the role’s potential for addressing significant gaps in health care, particularly in underserved populations. Earlier in her career, Linda developed an online CNL program at the University of South Alabama where she served as program chair. She is co-editor of the first and second editions of Initiating and Sustaining the Clinical Nurse Leader Role, A Practical Guide, which is being used by many education programs and practice settings nationwide. Linda has served as an item writer for the CNL Certification Exam and as a contributor to the CNL Certification Review Course developed by AACN. The education consultant to the Clinical Nurse Leader Association Board, she also has served as a faculty mentor and a consultant with community agencies interested in embedding the CNL into the care delivery system.

Honorable Mention: Kelly Phillips, PhD, MSN, CNS, CNL, is the program director for the MSN Graduate Entry Clinical Nurse Leader program at The University of Toledo College of Nursing. As one of the program’s founding faculty members, she has been instrumental in shaping innovative curriculum, which uses standardized patients and other forms of simulation as well as a variety of interprofessional experiences to prepare CNLs for collaborative practice. Dr. Phillips facilitates the immersion experiences for CNL students by developing partnerships with practice sites and placing students in a variety of settings. She has presented at multiple conferences and has published on the CNL role.