CNL Vanguard Award

AACN and the Commission on Nurse Certification (CNC) are pleased to announce the 2021 CNL Vanguard Award. This national award recognizes a certified CNL for innovative and outstanding professional performance and advocacy of the CNL skill set. In addition, the award promotes the contributions of the CNL in transforming health care. The 2021 recipient will be recognized during the opening session of the CNL Summit, which will be held virtually February 25-27, 2021. Nomination deadline is November 9, 2020 by 5:00 pm (ET).

See past award winners >>

Apply for CNL Vanguard

Award Criteria

The candidate must be nominated by a nursing colleague/co-worker, nursing supervisor, or CNL student. The candidate must meet the following criteria:

  • Hold  CNL certification from the CNC 
  • Employed as a CNL or in a position that exemplifies the CNL skill set characteristics and education for a minimum of two years 
  • Demonstrate innovation in transforming patient care with sustainable outcomes (specific examples of outcomes should be included)
  • Demonstrate clinical leadership or professional leadership in developing the CNL skill set through innovative education or academic-practice partnerships
  • Serve as a role model of professional practice contributing positively to the professional environment 
  • Promote change or collaboration within the system to improve quality of patient care
  • Advocate for the CNL skill set at the local, state, or national levels
Submission Process

The application must include a criteria statement/narrative (not to exceed two pages in length) that explains how the candidate demonstrates the eligibility criteria and two letters of support from individuals other than the individual submitting the application. These individuals may be from academia or practice and should describe the relationship with the CNL, length of time known, and how the CNL nominee embodies the award criteria. The criteria statement/narrative and two letters of support may be submitted as an attachment.

The application for the 2021 CNL Vanguard Award must include the completed application form, criteria statement/narrative and two letters of support. All materials must be submitted together. The completed application and letters of support should be submitted electronically to Krisi Yosifova at

(By submitting the application, all parties consent and authorize use of the narratives as well as future photos for promotional purposes. Excerpts from the application will be read during the award presentation at the CNL Summit. Descriptions may be included in a future database of CNL best practices. It is the responsibility of the individual submitting the application to obtain permission from the nominee prior to submitting the application.)

Review and Notification Process

A review panel (two members representing AACN and one member of the CNC’s Board of Commissioners) will consider all completed applications received by the deadline. The recipient will be selected based upon the information submitted describing how the nominee meets the eligibility criteria; preference will be given to the applicant who has demonstrated innovative and effective change for care delivery as well as advocacy of the CNL. 

Presentation of Awards

If selected, the recipient must be available to attend the 2021 virtual CNL Summit and Research Symposium and will be asked to present a 10-15 minute presentation highlighting his/her experiences, actions, and outcomes implementing and advancing the CNL. The recipient will receive their registrations waived for the 2021 CNL Summit and Research Symposium plus a $100 award, a commemorative award, and a CNL lapel pin. 




Contact Shantal H. Johnson, CNC’s Director, at or Dr. Joan Stanley, AACN’s Chief Academic Officer, at