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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 



Earn Continuing Education Credit with AACN's CNL Certification Exam Review Modules

The modules are designed for:

  • Individuals seeking to prepare for the CNL Certification Examination
  • Practicing CNLs renewing certification through continuing education units (CEUs)
  • Nursing students and professionals seeking continuing professional development opportunities

The CNL Certification Exam Review Course features 17 chapters across 6 separate modules. By completing all 6 modules, you are eligible to receive 18 continuing education credits.

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News & Announcements

  • CNC Call for Volunteers is Now Open

    January 4, 2022

    The Commission on Nurse Certification is now accepting applications for three available positions on the CNC Board of Commissioners (CNCBOC), one position on the Marketing Committee, seven positions on the Item Writers Committee, and 12 positions on the CNL Job Analysis Committee. CNCBOC and Item Writer positions require a three-year commitment. Marketing Committee positions require a two-year commitment. CNL Job Analysis Committee requires a one-year commitment. Click here to download the guidelines and applications

  • Call for Nominations for the 2022 CNL Awards

    November 8, 2021

    AACN and the Commission on Nurse Certification (CNC) are now accepting nominations for the 2022 CNL Educator Award and the CNL Vanguard Award. 

  • AACN Launches New CNL Certification Exam Review Modules

    April 6, 2021

    AACN is thrilled to announce the launch of the new Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) Certification Exam Review Modules! Visit the CNL Module web page to learn more and purchase.

  • AACN and CNC Announces 2021 CNL Educator and Vanguard Award Winners

    February 1, 2021

    AACN and CNC announced the latest winners of the annual Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) Awards, which recognize exceptional CNLs in academia and practice. Honorees include Latasha Kast from the UPMC Passavant, selected for the CNL Vanguard Award for exemplary practice as a CNL, and Rosemary Hoffmann from the University of Pittsburgh, who will receive the CNL Educator Award.

Value of the CNL

Congratulations to the 2022 CNL Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient

Marge Wiggins

Marjorie Wiggins, DNP, MBA, RN
Chief Nursing Officer
Maine Health System

Congratulations to the 2022 CNL Vanguard Award Winners

photo of Lauren Salinas

Lauren Salinas, MSN, RN, CNL, CCRN
Clinical Specialist
Texas Children's Hospital - Houston

photo of soroyah Bourenane

Sorayah Bourenane, MSN, RN, CEN, CNL
Clinical Nurse Leader
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Learn more about the CNL Vanguard Award Winners

Congratulations to the 2022 CNL Innovation in Practice Award Winners

Photo of Anita Catlin

Anita Catlin, PhD, FNP, CNL, FAAN
Manager of Nursing Research
Kaiser Permanente - Vallejo

photo of brianna bagalio

Brianna Bagalio, MSN, RN, CNL, CCRN
Clinical Nurse Leader
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

photo of kimberly hill

Kimberly Hill, MSN, RN, CNL, CCRN
Clinical Nurse Leader
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

Learn more about the CNL Innovation in Practice Award Winners 

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Clinical Nurse Leaders Class of 2019 Academy Fellows

Join the Commission on Nurse Certification in congratulating three certified Clinical Nurse Leaders recognized as 2019 New Fellows of the American Academy of Nursing:        


Annette Bourgault, PhD, RN, CNL
Assistant Professor, University of Central Florida College of Nursing
Nurse Scientist, Orlando Health               

Lauran J. Hardin, MSN, RN-BC, CNL, FNAP
Senior Advisor, Camden Coalition National Center for Complex and Social Needs, American Academy of Nursing Edge Runner     

Meg Zomorodi, PhD, RN, CNL 
Assistant Provost, Director for the Office of Interprofessional Education and Practice, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill