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AACN Awards CNL Visionary Leader and Vanguard Awards

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Press Release
For Immediate Release

AACN Awards CNL Visionary Leader and Vanguard Awards to
Three Forerunners in the National Clinical Nurse Leader Movement

CNL Vanguard Award Presented Jointly by AACN and the
Commission on Nurse Certification

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 11, 2013 – The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is pleased to announce that two national nursing leaders – Dr. Joan Shinkus Clark from Texas Health Resources and Dr. Marjorie Wiggins from Maine Medical Center – are the recipients of the 2013 CNL Visionary Leader Award. The highest honor presented by AACN to practice leaders making significant contributions to advancing the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) initiative, these awards were presented at the CNL Summit held in New Orleans last month. The CNL Vanguard Award, which recognizes the innovative work of a CNL-certified nurse, was also presented at the Summit to Barbara Edwards from St. Lucie Medical Center for her exemplary work as a true champion for patient safety.

“Introducing a new nursing role into the healthcare delivery system takes vision, courage, and leadership,” said AACN President Jane Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN. “AACN commends the ground-breaking work led by Drs. Shinkus Clark and Wiggins to introduce the CNL into their respective health systems as a mechanism for enhancing care coordination, strengthening outcome-based practice, and enhancing patient safety. We are also so pleased to honor Barbara Edwards for showing us all how CNLs are re-envisioning team-based care and improving the patient experience on many levels.”

The Clinical Nurse Leader is a fast emerging nursing role developed by AACN in collaboration with leaders from education and practice to improve the quality of patient care and better prepare nurses to thrive in today’s healthcare system. These master’s-prepared clinicians put evidence-based practice into action to ensure that patients benefit from the latest innovations in care delivery. The CNL evaluates patient outcomes, identifies risk, coordinates care, and implements quality improvement strategies.

First presented in 2011, the CNL Visionary Leader Award recognizes the long-standing and substantial accomplishments of an individual to the development, promotion and integration of the CNL role in U.S. healthcare. These noteworthy accomplishments are underscored by an unremitting commitment to the education and advancement of the CNL role and to efforts that have helped to maximize and sustain the impact of the role. The CNL Vanguard Award was introduced in 2012 by AACN and the Commission on Nurse Certification – the autonomous agency charged with overseeing the CNL certification process – to recognize the innovative and outstanding professional performance of a certified CNL on the frontlines of improving health care.


 Meet the 2013 award receipients

CNL Visionary Awards


Joan Shinkus Clark, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, CENP, FACHE, FAAN, is the Senior Vice President and System Chief Nurse Executive at Texas Health Resources, located in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  Almost 10 years ago, as Vice President for Patient Care and Chief Nursing Officer at Baptist Hospital of Miami, Dr. Clark recognized the tremendous need to design a new and different care delivery model to improve patient outcomes and the importance of nursing in achieving this goal. Her leadership and research around the 12- Bed Care Delivery Model, a precursor to the CNL, has led to the embedded the CNL role as an essential component of the nursing care team, received national attention and was recognized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as a top innovative care model in 2007.  Dr. Clark subsequently went on to introduce this model and the CNL at Washington Hospital Center and most recently throughout the entire Texas Health Resources System, one of the largest non-profit healthcare delivery systems in the U.S. At the national level, Dr. Clark has served on the AACN CNL Implementation Task Force and the CNL Steering Committee, and her leadership as a member of the American Organization of Nurse Executives has been key to promoting a national dialogue and awareness of the CNL.

Marjorie Wiggins, DNP, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, is the Senior Vice President of Nursing and Chief Nursing Officer for Maine Medical Center, the state’s leading academic and research-based tertiary and quaternary care center.  Dr. Wiggins was one of the earliest proponents of the CNL initiative, and her visionary leadership helped to shape the formation of this new nursing provider. Her early development and implementation of the CNL role at Maine Medical has served as a model for numerous other settings across the country. Dr. Wiggins’ extensive research and publications have been instrumental in quantifying the impact CNLs are having in improving nurse-sensitive quality indicators at the microsystems level. She has also been successful in documenting how CNL practice can be leveraged by hospitals seeking Magnet status. Her untiring service on the CNL Implementation Task Force and the CNL Steering Committee for the past 8 years has been critical to advancing the CNL movement and creating a national awareness of the potential for this new master’s prepared nurse to repair serious gaps in care delivery models. 

 CNL Vanguard Award

Barbara Edwards, MSN, CMS RN, CNL, is a true vanguard for the CNL role at both the local and national levels. She was first introduced to the CNL in 2006 on one of the first unit’s to pilot this new role at St Lucie Medical Center (SLMC) in Florida, a branch of the HCA system. Quick to recognize its transformative potential, Ms. Edwards went on to complete the CNL program at Florida Atlantic University in 2008 and soon became certified in the role. As part of her capstone project, she worked with fellow CNL student Karen Giovengo to implement the “Nursing as Caring” Theory at SLMC, which has changed the culture to one that is more patient-centered. Over the years, Ms. Edwards focus on implementing continuous quality improvement measures and evidence-based practices has led to improved patient satisfaction scores, decreased urinary tract infections, decreased blood stream infections and implementation of a Rapid Response Team. Ms. Edwards contributions to improving patient care have been recognized numerous times over the past six years, including being named SLMC’s Patient Safety Champion in 2007, recipient of the HCA Innovators Award for SLMC in 2010, and most recently named the St. Lucie County Healthcare Hero for innovation in healthcare in 2011.

Presentations delivered by each award winner at the 2013 CNL Summit may be accessed online at For the latest news and information about the national CNL initiative, see

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing is the national voice for baccalaureate and graduate programs in nursing. Representing more than 720 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. For more information, visit



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