Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) direct entry to nursing

‌Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Blen Afework, amy Lee

The Master's Entry Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) program takes into account your educational, career, and life experiences as well as your critical thinking ability and maturity as you prepare to become a leader in nursing and health care. The curriculum prepares individuals with undergraduate or graduate degrees in other disciplines to become registered nurses (RNs) who provide direct patient care and who lead at the point of care. (If you are already a baccalaureate-prepared RN interested in the Clinical Nurse Leader program, click here.)

One key differentiation between our master's entry program and other nurse-education programs is how we conduct our clinical training. All of our clinical education is precepted on a 1:1 model (one student with one nurse) thoughout the master's entry CNL program -- over 1000 hours in all. This is more clinical one-on-one experience than any other program in the country that prepares you to become a nurse.

This CNL program educates individuals to provide leadership at the point of care. The school admits students each summer into a 24-month, full-time program leading to a master of science in nursing. The CNL is an advanced nursing generalist, and will be prepared to direct care at the unit level. This could be direct care in an inpatient hospital unit, in an outpatient environment, or in a public or community health setting.

CNL graduates are prepared to collect and evaluate patient outcomes, assess cohort risk, and use decision-making authority to change care plans when necessary. The CNL will function as part of an interdisciplinary team by communicating, planning, and implementing care directly with other health care professionals, including physicians, pharmacists, social workers, and advanced practice nurses.

The master's entry CNL program is not intended to prepare individuals for a specific job title as a "Clinical Nurse Leader;" rather, graduates will likely obtain various professional positions from different employers. It is also anticipated that new CNL grads will be hired as novice nurses in whatever position they seek. Our CNL graduates tend to rise rapidly to positions as clinicians, team leaders, patient care coordinators, outcomes managers, client advocates, systems analysts/risk anticipators, among many other titles. One of the objectives of the Master's Entry CNL program is to provide graduates with clinical experiences in different healthcare settings as well as the professional skills and abilities that can be used across different environments.

This program is a full-time program that leads to a MSN degree after 24 months. The cohort entering in May 2015 will graduate in May 2017.

Second Site:   The Master's Entry CNL program will continue to be offered from the Main Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Beginning in May 2015, we will be web-streaming this program live to a second site at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Virginia.  This will enable a group of students to complete the program (including clinical requirements) from Southwest Virginia, an Health Professional Shortage Area, in Appalachian Virginia. 

Gina DeGennaro, Program Coordinator

150 x 200
Renee Breeden,
Program Manager

Program Coordinator:  Gina DeGennaro, DNP, RN, CNL; (434) 924-0116;
Please address questions on admissions or financial aid to Clay Hysell, Assistant Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid; (434) 924-0066;


Clinical experiences include rotations in a variety of sites to help the student develop skills with acute, chronic, and preventative care of persons with medical-surgical, obstetric, and psychiatric needs. In addition, students also rotate through community/public health and pediatric specialty sites. In the final spring and summer semesters, students identify a clinical focus area for completion of an extended clinical practicum, followed by the CNL residency practicum. Clinical experiences will be offered at the UVA Medical Center, at other facilities and settings in the Charlottesville area, and at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Salem, Virginia. 

All of the clinical training in the master's entry CNL is conducted on a 1:1 precepted model. While most nursing programs have clincial groups (8-10 students and one faculty member at a time), the master's entry CNL program is one-to-one for the full program (1000 clinical hours).

Licensure and Certification

Graduates of the program are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to be licensed as an RN. Graduates are also eligible to sit for the Clinical Nurse Leader certification examination. UVA's CNL graduates are traditionally an accomplished group. The first-time NCLEX pass-rate in 2012 was 90.5%.

Admission Requirements

Admission to the School of Nursing is competitive and based on evaluation of all portions of the application. To be considered for the Clinical Nurse Leader Master of Science in Nursing, applicants must submit a completed application and the following materials by October 1 for the cohort entering the following May:

  • Have a baccalaureate or master's degree from a regionally-accredited school
  • Have a minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • Successfully complete the following prerequisite courses before enrolling:
    Human Anatomy & Physiology within the past five years
    A course in Microbiology within the past five years
    A course in life span development (conception to death)
    A course in statistics at the graduate or undergraduate level within the past 5 years
  • The GRE is required only for those with an undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.25 or lower from your first bachelor's degree*
  • Submit three satisfactory academic and professional recommendations. If possible, one should be from someone in healthcare.
  • Submit a copy of your resume or CV
  • Have prior work or volunteer experience in healthcare; exposure to nursing is recommended
  • Be available for an interview if requested; this might be a phone interview with members of the admissions committee

Application deadline for all materials (application and supporting documents): October 1

*Certain applicants are required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test. The School of Nursing accepts GRE scores that are more than five years old. If you have your 'older' scores, you may submit a copy of the Student Report. Students who have already completed a graduate degree do not need to submit GRE scores. The institutional code for the University of Virginia is R-5820.

International applicants have additional admissions requirements.


A competitive candidate for admission to the Master's Entry program would have the following at the time of application:

  • Undergraduate gpa of 3.30 or higher from previous degree institution;
  • Grades of A or A- in all of the prerequisite classes;
  • Exposure to healthcare and/or nursing through professional or volunteer activities;
  • Prior experience in change-related projects (through work or volunteer experiences) or in team leadership;
  • Excellent writing skills.


Technology requirements: All graduate nursing students are required to have a laptop. Information on the technology requirements will be sent to enrolling students in the months before classes begin.

Downloads, Program of Study, and Links

For More Information

Contact us by phone: (434) 924-0141 / (888) 283-8703. Specific questions about admissions and financial aid should be directed to Clay Hysell, Assistant Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid