Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) - direct entry to nursing

A master’s program that prepares those from outside the field to become nurse leaders on a fast track

  • Two year, full-time program (including summer sessions)
  • 75 credits
  • More than 1,000 clinical hours of guided learning in 6 specialty areas from experienced faculty and clinicians
  • Graduates eligible for NCLEX and the CNL certification exams
  • Application deadline: Oct. 1 for entry the following May (notification by Dec. 31)


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Overview Admissions Classes Contact


CNL profiles

Kate Goss - attorney to nurse - thumb

Attorney to nurse: Kate Goss (CNL `12)

 Heltzel_thumb The profession that stuck: Former arborist, beer brewer, cowboy Ben Heltzel (CNL `14) finds power, authenticity in nursing.


Who is the CNL for?
The CNL master’s program is for those interested in pivoting into nursing who have undergraduate or graduate degrees in other disciplines.

CNL graduates aren’t prepared for a specific job title as a "Clinical Nurse Leader" but are, rather, likely to be hired as novice nurses in whatever setting they seek. CNL graduates, however, tend to rise rapidly in health care communities as clinicians, team leaders, patient care coordinators, outcomes managers, client advocates and systems analysts.

The complexity of healthcare systems today demands an increased focus on improving outcomes with knowledge of quality measures and safety assessment. A CNL-prepared nurse innovates healthcare delivery with expertise in Interprofessional practice, team leadership and quality improvement.

From English majors to engineering graduates, former attorneys to biologists, the CNL program attracts a wide variety of professionals united in common purpose: the desire to give back through compassionate nursing care. Individualized programs are also available for BSN-prepared RNs interested in the CNL.

Conway Community Scholars
The Conway Community Scholars is a new initiative intended to increase CNLS in communities across the Commonwealth of Virginia, with a special emphasis on meeting the health needs of underserved populations. We offer the CNL courses at the Charlottesville site, but will work with interested students throughout Virginia to develop clinical placements in their home community.  When matriculating, students are encouraged to have possible sites of interest identified. Applicants can indicate interest in the program on their application.

Licensure and certification
CNL graduates are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to be licensed as an RN and the CNL certification examination. UVA's CNL graduates are traditionally an accomplished group; in 2014, the first-time NCLEX pass rate was 100%.


  • Small, intimate classes with UVA's world-class nursing faculty
  • More than 1,000 clinical hours of guided learning in 6 specialty areas from experienced faculty and clinicians
  • A rich variety of clinical experiences and exposures, including rotations in pediatrics, geriatrics, oncology, obstetrics and mental health units
  • Upon graduation, an advanced nursing degree (MSN)


Admission requirements
Admission to the School of Nursing is competitive. Applicants must submit a completed application and the following  by Oct. 1:

  • A baccalaureate or master's degree from a regionally-accredited school
  • A minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale)
  • Successful completion of the following prerequisites before enrollment:
    • 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 five years
  • GRE score: required only for those with an undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.25 or lower from their first bachelor's degree*
  • Submit a total of three satisfactory recommendations, one from a healthcare provider
  • A resume or CV
  • 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
  • International applicants have additional admissions requirements

*For students submitting GRE scores, the institutional code for UVA is R-5820. The School accepts GRE scores that are more than five years old. Students who have earned a graduate degree do not need to submit GRE scores.

A competitive CNL candidate has:

  • An undergraduate GPA of 3.30 or higher
  • Grades of A or A- in each prerequisite
  • 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

Tuition and financial aid

  • Tuition and financial aid info for the CNL and other programs
  • CNL Conway Scholars program: the Conway Scholars program provides substantial tuition support for years 1 and 2 of master’s entry CNL program. Conway Scholars must financially qualify and commit to completing a minimum number of community service hours during their program of study. Eligible for Virginia residents only. Open only to new CNL students.

Technology requirements
All graduate nursing students are required to have a laptop; information is sent to enrolling students prior to the beginning of classes.


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 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 are offered at the UVA Medical Center, at other facilities and settings in Charlottesville, and at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Salem, Virginia.

The master's entry CNL program offers more than 1,000 clinical hours of guided learning in 6 specialty areas from experienced faculty and clinicians.


  • Emma Mitchell, PhD, MSN, RN; CNL program coordinator
  • Renee Breeden, CNL program manager: 434-243-0840
  • Specific questions about admissions and financial aid should be directed to the Office of Admissions & Student Services, (434) 924-0141 or (888) 283-8703