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AACN Establishes the Commission on Nurse Certification to Oversee the Credentialing of Clinical Nurse Leaders

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Press Release
For Immediate Release

AACN Establishes the Commission on Nurse Certification to Oversee the Credentialing of Clinical Nurse Leaders

New CNL® Trademark Helps to Solidify the Role of the Clinical Nurse Leader

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 11, 2007 – The Board of Directors of AACN has moved to establish the Commission on Nurse Certification (CNC), a new credentialing body to oversee the certification of Clinical Nurse Leaders (CNLs). Composed of representatives from practice and academia, this new authority will lead the effort to certify graduates of master’s level nursing programs that prepare advanced generalists for practice across a variety of health care settings.

“Certifying CNL program graduates is an effective way to ensure that nurses are expertly prepared to provide clinical leadership at the point of care,” said AACN President Jeanette Lancaster, PhD, RN, FAAN. “CNL certification serves as a mark of excellence which promotes safe, quality practice through its ongoing requirements for personal and professional growth.”

The Clinical Nurse Leader or CNL® is a fast emerging nursing role being developed by AACN in collaboration with leaders from the education and practice arenas. AACN is advancing the CNL to improve the quality of patient care and to better prepare nurses to thrive in the health care system. The CNL role was developed following research and discussion with stakeholder groups as a way to engage highly skilled clinicians in outcomes-based practice and quality improvement. The CNL is a master’s prepared advanced generalist who oversees the care coordination for patients, provides risk assessment and quality improvement strategies, and implements evidence-based practice.

To date, more than 90 education-practice partnerships in 35 states and Puerto Rico are working together to advance the CNL role. Partners are working to develop master’s programs to educate CNLs, integrate this clinician into the health care system, and evaluate outcomes. The Veterans Health Administration, the largest employer of Registered Nurses in the world, has made a commitment to integrating the Clinical Nurse Leader role throughout its health care system. For a current list of CNL programs offered at nursing schools across the country, see

CNL Certification Commences

CNL Certification provides a unique credential for graduates of master's and post-master's CNL programs or similar graduate programs that prepare advanced generalists and meet the outcome competencies and program requirements delineated in the AACN white paper on The Education and Role of the Clinical Nurse Leader. The certification exam was piloted in November/December 2006 at 10 academic institutions offering the CNL degree. The computer-based test has two separate components, multiple choice and simulation/case-based items, and is administered at individual schools of nursing. Since the first regular administration of the CNL Certification Examination in Spring 2007, more than 250 CNLs have been formally certified with many others applicants currently being assessed for certification. For more details including eligibility requirements and upcoming testing windows, see

To oversee certification activities, the AACN Board of Directors created the Commission on Nurse Certification (CNC) which met for the first time during AACN’s recent Fall Semiannual Meeting. The CNC oversees all aspects of its certification functions including the establishment of bylaws, policies, operating rules and procedures, and examinations; implementation of its rules and procedures; and allocation of budget and expenditures. Members of the CNC Board of Commissioners include:

Jeri A. Milstead, PhD, RN, FAAN – Chair
Dean and Professor, University of Toledo

Terry Beach, MS, RN, CNL – Vice Chair
Regional Clinical Nurse Leader, Providence Health Systems, Portland, OR

Traci Hoiting, MS, RN, CNL – Secretary
Chief Nursing Officer, Swedish Health System, Seattle, WA

Susan M. Schmidt, PhD, RN, CNS, COHN-S, CNL – Treasurer
Chair and Professor/Epidemiologist, Xavier University

Jim Begun, PhD
Professor, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota

Susan R. Hartranft, MS, ARNP, CNL
Manager, Research & Development, Morton Plant Mease Health Care, Clearwater, FL

Phyllis Healy, PhD, RN, BC-FNP
Associate Professor, University of Southern Maine

Janis C. Holiwell, MN, RN, CNL, CNS Geriatrics, WOCN
Clinical Nurse Specialist-Long Term Care, Eastern Kansas Health Care, Topeka, KS

Melissa Vandeveer, PhD, RN, PNP, CNL
Director, Direct Entry CNL Program, Sonoma State University

“I am honored to have been selected to lead the CNC and be a part of this organization during its formative stage,” said CNC Board Chair Jeri Milstead. “The CNC Board of Commissioners is committed to advancing the CNL role and ensuring competency and ongoing development of those nurses practicing in this capacity.”

The CNL Trademark

AACN and the CNC are pleased to announce that “CNL®” is now a registered trademark following a recent decision by the Federal Trademark Office to grant the AACN title protection for the CNL title and credential. AACN also holds service marks for both “Clinical Nurse Leader” and “Clinical Nurse Leader Certification Examination.” The registered trademark and service marks will appear in marketing materials. Only certified CNLs may use this trademark in their credentials. Also, the CNL acronym may only be used to describe programs that reflect the AACN white paper on The Education and Practice of Clinical Nurse Leaders. This paper is posted online at

For more information on the CNL role, certification, or related information, visit the Clinical Nurse Leader and CNL Certification resource sections on the AACN Web site found at

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is the national voice for university and four-year college education programs in nursing. Representing more than 620 member schools of nursing at public and private institutions nationwide, AACN's educational, research, governmental advocacy, data collection, publications, and other programs work to establish quality standards for bachelor's- and graduate-degree nursing education, assist deans and directors to implement those standards, influence the nursing profession to improve health care, and promote public support of baccalaureate and graduate nursing education, research, and practice.

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Robert Rosseter, 202-463-6930, ext. 231