CNL Educator Award

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the Commission on Nurse Certification (CNC) are now accepting nominations for the 2023 CNL Educator Award. This national award recognizes a CNL faculty member or education program director for innovative and outstanding preparation and advocacy of CNLs. In addition, the award promotes the contributions of the CNL faculty member in transforming nursing education and promoting innovation in both academia and practice. 

Application cycle is currently closed. 

The candidate must be nominated by a nursing colleague, co-faculty member, dean, CNL graduate, or CNL student. (Nominations of previous nominees are accepted but should be updated and permission from the nominee confirmed.) The candidate must meet the following criteria:

  • Hold CNL certification from the CNC
  • Employed as a faculty member and/or program director for a CNL master’s or post-master’s CNL education program for a minimum of two years
  • Demonstrate innovative pedagogy using a variety of teaching strategies and learning experiences that facilitate CNL student learning outcomes
  • Demonstrate engagement in partnerships with practice to transform CNL education and patient care with sustainable outcomes (specific examples of outcomes should be included)
  • Demonstrate professional leadership in developing and sustaining the CNL skill set through innovative partnerships with a variety of stakeholders (e.g. other disciplines, businesses, professional organizations)
  • Serve as a role model to bridge CNL education with practice by contributing positively to the professional education and practice environment
  • Promote change or collaboration within the education and practice systems to improve quality of patient care
  • Advocate for the CNL skill set at the local, state, or national levels, including publications and/or presentations

If selected, the recipient must be available to attend the 2023 CNL Summit and Research Symposium and present a 5-10-minute presentation highlighting his/her experiences, actions, and outcomes implementing and advancing the CNL.

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 person submitting the application. These individuals may be from academia or practice and should describe their relationship with the CNL educator, length of time known, and how the nominee embodies the award criteria. The criteria statement/narrative and two letters of support may be submitted as an attachment.

Deadline: Application is now closed.

The application for the 2023 CNL Educator 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 Bridget Bingle at

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 and CNL education. The recipient will be notified by Monday, December 5, 2022.

(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.)

Headshot of Jeanne Bernier2023 Winner

Jeanne Bernier, MSN, RN, CNL, is the CNL program director at Mississippi College and served as a team member in achieving accreditation of the first CNL program in the state. Jeanne is active in pedagogy creation, including working with students as they plan and initiate quality improvement projects in their respective work environments across several healthcare systems. She works with these students from the onset of their projects through the completion of the capstone CNL course. Her promotion of the CNL includes writing several SARA agreements for student mobility across states in the southeast US and working closely with preceptors to mentor students in the CNL role and with practice partners to promote those roles within their facilities.

2021 Winner

Rosemary Hoffmann, PhD, RN, CNL, has been on faculty at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing since 1995 and since 2008, has served as the program coordinator for the Clinical Nurse Leader area of concentration leading to an MSN. As a result of Dr. Hoffmann’s success with the Model A CNL program, University of Pittsburgh is also now creating a Model C MSN Entry into Practice Program which will take effect within the next year. Dr. Hoffmann was selected for this award because she personifies the idea of expanding the role of the CNL and being able to think holistically. She is praised by her colleagues for having a particular skill in challenging her students and peers to think bigger by using their credentials and skills as a CNL to become problem solvers and patient advocates.

Runner-UpGrace Buttriss, DNP, RN, FNP-BC, CNL, CNL Program Coordinator, Queens University

Honorable MentionDianna Sorenson, PhD, MBA, MN, CNS, RN, CNL, Professor of Nursing, CNL Track Coordinator and DNP Program Coordinator, Morningside College

2020 Winner


Kris L'Ecuyer, PhD, RN, CNL,  is the Associate Dean for Undergraduate and Pre-licensure Nursing Education and Associate Professor at Saint Louis University Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing. She is a CNL educator and was the administrator for a Model C (direct entry) and Model A (BNS-MSN) CNL programs. She is a national advocate for the CNL and has worked on numerous committees for AACN and the CNC regarding development of the Clinical Nurse Leader, administration of the CNL exam, and advocacy for the CNL. She has contributed to CNL skill set dissemination through scholarship and research, and numerous presentations.

2019 Winner

Pamela DeGuzman HeadshotPamela DeGuzman, PhD, MBA, RN, CNL, is an Associate Professor at the University of Virginia School of Nursing. She holds a joint appointment at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital as a Research Coordinator where she serves as a mentor to staff and supports evidence-based practice projects. At UVA, she has taught in the CNL program for the last three years and in that time has completely revamped the CNL capstone course with an emphasis on dissemination of results from the capstone experience. As a CNL she advocates for the CNL role, certification, and education, and has worked to expand the types and number of clinical sites for preparing students for CNL practice, including the UVA Student Health Center.

Honorable MentionHelen Nguyen, DNP, NNP, CNL, Associate Professor at University of San Francisco School of Nursing and Health Professions.

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.



Questions? Contact Dr. Joan Stanley, AACN’s Chief Academic Officer, at or Allison Jacobs, Associate Director of Special Projects, at