CNL Vanguard Award

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the Commission on Nurse Certification (CNC) are pleased to announce the 2023 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 2023 recipient will be recognized during the opening session of the CNL Summit, which will be held in Orlando, FL, February 23-25, 2023.

NOTE: Application is now closed.

The CNL Vanguard Award recipient will receive a complimentary registration and a $500 award to attend the 2023 CNL Summit and Research Symposium, a commemorative award, and a CNL lapel pin. (For information about the CNL Summit and Research Symposium, click here.)

The candidate must be nominated by a nursing colleague/co-worker, nursing supervisor, or CNL student. (Nominations of previous nominees are accepted but should be updated and reconfirmed with nominee.) 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

If selected, the recipient must be available to attend the 2023 CNL Summit and Research Symposium and present a brief 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 individual submitting the application. These individuals may be from academia or practice and should describe the relationship with the CNL nominee, 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.

Note: Application is now closed.

The application for the 2023 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 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 (November 4, 2022). 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. 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.)

2023 CNL Vanguard Award Winners

Headshot of Chrissy BassChrissy Bass is a CNL at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center, where she has made strides in stroke patient-care efficiency, mobility promotion, and VTE reduction. At a time when 35% of stroke patients at her hospital were not being treated on the stroke floor, Chrissy stepped forward to identify ways to relocate patients to units where they could be best cared for. She worked with senior leadership to develop Intracranial Hemorrhage pathways for stroke patients and developed a group of Stroke Navigators to aid the flow of patient identification. By the end of the year, only 5% of stroke patients were identified not on the stroke floor. Additionally, when the increased need for mobility embedded in hospital culture was identified, Chrissy worked to develop and educate mobility champions across multiple areas of care to decrease hospital events such as falls, pressure injuries, and VTE. As a result, hospital data showed a direct correlation with VTE reductions, and her specific unit saw length of stay reductions and a twofold increase in mobility.

2022 Winners

Lauren SalinasLauren Salinas, MSN, RN, CNL, CCRN, is a Clinical Specialist certified as a CNL at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, TX in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU). Since graduating as a CNL, she has worked to improve patient outcomes and the patient-family experience while in the CICU through her coordination of care, quality initiatives, and innovation at the bedside. Lauren incorporated her knowledge as a CNL to decrease central line associated bloodstream infections through her innovative quality improvement projects surrounding central line care and quality rounding. Lauren has presented her quality projects at local and national conferences. She is passionate about incorporating the CNL focus of care coordination and transitions of care into her complex patient population. 


Sorayah BourenaneSorayah Bourenane, MSN, RN, CEN, CNL, a CNL at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, has developed educational content and served as a subject matter expert on Oncologic Emergency Nursing for the Board of Certified Emergency Nurses. She co-authored a chapter in a medical textbook for Oncologic Emergencies and assisted in the development of the institutional sepsis program at MD Anderson, which has resulted in decreased mortality. She also serves as Speaker of the Nursing Platform for the Global Sepsis Alliance and has presented nationally and internationally on oncologic emergencies, end-of-life care in the emergency department and in-flight medical emergencies.


2021 Winner

Latasha Kast, MSN, RN, CCRN, CNL, is an Advanced Clinical Education Specialist for Critical Care at  UPMC Passavant. Latasha  provides on-boarding, education, mentorship, and leadership support to nurses in her role as an Advanced Clinical Education Specialist for Critical Care. She previously worked in progressive clinical and leadership positions within Trauma/Vascular Step-Down, Surgical Trauma ICU, and Neurovascular ICU. Additionally, she serves on the CNL Advisory Board at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. Ms. Kast was selected for this award for her commitment to nursing practice by leading and developing several quality improvement projects to improve patient outcomes, including hair washing to reduce surgical site infections in neurosurgical patients.

Honorable MentionSinai Hospital CNL Team; Elizabeth Krug, MS, RN, PCCN, CNL, Nursing Outcomes Leader, Sinai Hospital of Baltimore; Kristen Liberto, MS, RN, CCRN, CNL, Nursing Outcomes Leader, Sinai Hospital of Baltimore; and Sarah Stanley, MS, RN, CNL, Nursing Outcomes Leader, Sinai Hospital of Baltimore

2020 Winner

Veronica Rankin, DNP, RN-BC, CNL, NP-C, serves as a Director of Nursing Services in the role of Magnet Program Director for Atrium Health’s Carolinas Medical Center- Central Division, located in Charlotte, North Carolina. She also serves as the Administrator of the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) Program at this magnet-designated Level 1 Trauma Center. Dr. Rankin has been a nurse for more than 16 years and a certified CNL for more than 9 years. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree as well as her Post-Masters certification as an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner from East Carolina University. She earned her master’s as a CNL from Queens University of Charlotte in 2011. She serves as adjunct faculty for Queen’s University’s graduate nursing program and teaches CNL exam certification review sessions with CNL students regularly. As a published author and member of various professional organizations including Sigma International where she serves as President of the Mu Psi Chapter, Dr. Rankin’s primary career goal is to promote and advance the profession of nursing.

2019 Winner

Cory Franks HeadshotCory Franks, MSN, RN, CNL has been a pioneer for the CNL role at Texas Health Resources. He along with several CNL students developed a structured approach to enhance communication and care delivery at Texas Health Alliance, part of the Texas Health Resources System. The initiative involving patients, families, hospitalists, nurses, and CNLs has resulted in an innovative care model and numerous quality improvements, including increased communication scores, satisfaction scores, timely discharge rates, and decreases in catheter-associated urinary tract infections. The outcomes at Texas Health Alliance were so convincing that all 14 hospitals within the system have adopted similar communication and care models. In addition to leading a number of interprofessional strategies to improve care outcomes, Cory role models and advocates for the significance, growth, and versatility of the CNL role at the local, state, and national levels.

Honorable MentionMegan Williams, MSN, RN, CNL, Manager of Complex Care Program at Regional One Health.

2018 Winner

Connie Garrett, MSN, RN-BC, CNL, CNOR has been a driving force in validating the CNL role within the VA system and a forerunner in demonstrating how this role can thrive as an essential part of the perioperative healthcare team. She successfully piloted the CNL role at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital and documented the CNL’s contributions to positive patient and staff outcomes in the operating room. Ms. Garrett has focused on VA and Joint Commission initiatives to measure the impact of the CNL role, such as prevention of HAIs, pressure injury, and influencing access to care through education of RNs in the operating room.

2017 Winner

Bonnie Haupt, DNP, RN, CNL, CHSE, holds her Doctorate of Nursing Practice from Sacred Heart University. She is also a Certified Simulation Healthcare Educator and CNL. Dr. Haupt has worked most recently as the Patient Experience Officer, Acute Care CNL, and for the VA Nursing Academy and Fairfield University as an Assistant Professor. She is currently the CNL at South Texas VA Healthcare Systems (VAHCS), and has worked for the VHA for over 24 years. At South Texas VAHCS, she collaborates with interprofessional team members on quality, safety, and performance improvement processes. Her research interests include communication of interprofessional team members, utilization of evidenced based practice, and improving Veteran patient safety, satisfaction, and overall care outcomes.

2016 Winner

Robert J. LaPointe, MSN, RN, CNL, CCRN, is the immediate Past-President of the Clinical Nurse Leader Association (CNLA).  During his term, he increased CNLA membership by 45% and its value to members, developed 5 regional chapters, developed a strategic plan for growth in cooperation with the Commission on Nursing Certification (CNC) and strengthened the working relationship between CNLA and CNC. Since 2013, he has worked as a CNL at Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center (CMC VAMC). During his tenure at CMC VAMC, he has contributed, on a sustained basis, to improving the quality of care for veteran patients. His initial and ongoing emphasis is the use of telemetry which has resulted in the sustained reduction of telemetry demands and of overflow to ICUs and patients held in the Emergency Department. Recently selected as a member of the newly formed CNL Field Advisory Committee to the Office of Nursing Service, he continues to develop strategies to support and strengthen CNL practice within the Veterans Health Administration. 

2015 Winner

Lauran Hardin, MSN, RN, CNL, works as a Clinical Nurse Leader at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids, MI. Since graduating from the University of Detroit Mercy in 2010, her first position was as a pain and palliative care CNL responsible for coordinating care for patients with complex pain needs. In 2012, she began focusing her work on patients with frequent emergency department or inpatient visits. She has created and sustained a care delivery model for this group of patients – called Complex Care Maps – that has improved clinical outcomes, patient and staff satisfaction, and financial outcomes, including significant decreases in the frequency and number of ER visits as well as decreased inpatient length of stay. In addition to this trailblazing work, Lauran mentors new CNLs, has presented her findings in a number of venues, and is disseminating her work to other healthcare systems. 

Honorable Mention: Jessica Hatch, MSN, RN, CNL, is the Health Exchange Integration Manager at Lawrence General Hospital in Lawrence, MA. Respected by her colleagues as a care innovator and role model for professional CNL practice, she has worked to improve patients care by expanding the CNL role in her practice setting. Jessica’s early work as a CNL centered on developing a transition of care process. Her current focus is on using healthcare technology and informatics to support clinical decision making, quality system improvements, population health care, and patient engagement across the care continuum.


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