Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) direct entry to nursing

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

  • Two year, full-time program (24 months, including summer sessions)
  • 75 credits
  • More than 1,000 clinical hours of 1:1 guided learning in 6 specialty areas from experienced RNs
  • Graduates eligible for NCLEX and the Clinical Nurse Leader certification exams
  • Deadline to apply: Oct. 1 (for entry the following May)



Overview Admissions Classes Contact



  Attorney to nurse: Kate Goss (CNL `12)
  CNL admissions information
Hear from an admissions officer about the program and the admissions process.


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.

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 to baccalaureate-prepared RNs interested in the CNL.

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 2013, the first-time NCLEX pass rate was 100%.

CNL at a 2nd site in 2015
While the CNL will continued to be offered in Charlottesville, beginning in May, 2015, the program will be web-streamed 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, a health professional shortage area, in Appalachia.


  • Small, intimate classes with world class nursing faculty
  • More than 1,000 clinical hours of 1:1 guided learning in 6 specialty areas from experienced RNs
  • 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)


  • Integrate theoretical and research-based knowledge as a generalist leader or in an advanced nursing practice specialty
  • Provide care and comfort to individuals, families and groups experiencing complex health care needs
  • Provide care that reflects sensitivity to differences among culturally and ethnically diverse populations
  • Assume a leadership role in establishing and monitoring standards of practice to improve patient care in collaboration with nursing experts
  • Use ethical principles to guide decision-making in nursing practice
  • Evaluate clinical practice in relation to professional practice standards and relevant statutes and regulations
  • Apply the research process to improve evidence-based clinical practice and contribute to knowledge development
  • Engage in self-directed and purposeful activities in seeking necessary knowledge and skills to enhance career goals
  • Examine economic, political, and social forces affecting nursing care delivery in complex health systems
  • Promote multidisciplinary collaboration to ensure quality, cost effective care
  • Contribute to the development of peers, colleagues, and others to improve patient care and foster the growth of professional nursing
  • Act as change agents to create environments that promote effective nursing practice and patient outcomes


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 5 years
  • GRE score: required only for those with an undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.25 or lower from their first bachelor's degree*
  • Three academic and professional recommendations (including, if possible, one from a healthcare source)
  • 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

*Certain applicants must take the GRE General Test, and 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. The institutional code for the University of Virginia is R-5820.

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

Important dates

  • Application deadline: October 1
  • Notification of admissions decisions: by December 31
  • Enrollment: summer entry only (May)

Tuition and financial aid

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.

While most nursing programs have clincial groups (8-10 students and one faculty member at a time), the master's entry CNL program offers more than 1,000 clinical hours of 1:1 guided learning in 6 specialty areas from experienced RNs, the only such program in Virginia and the U.S.


  • Gina DeGennaro, DNP, RN, CNL, CNL program coordinator: 434-924-0116
  • Renee Breeden, CNL program manager: 434-243-0840
  • Specific questions about admissions and financial aid should be directed to Clay Hysell, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid.