RN to MSN: Clinical Nurse Leader Degrees

What is an MSN: Clinical Nurse Leader Degree?

The role of the MSN: Clinical Nurse Leader was developed to prevent errors in the care of patients in the clinical setting. CNLs oversee the care of a distinct group of patients and make sure those patients are receiving the most complete and technologically current care available.

A Clinical Nurse Leader oversees the lateral integration of care for a distinct group of patients and may actively provide direct patient care in complex situations. The CNL puts evidence-based practice into action to ensure that patients benefit from the latest innovations in care delivery. The CNL collects and evaluates patient outcomes, assesses cohort risk, and has the decision making authority to change care plans when necessary. This clinician functions as part of an inter-professional team by communicating, planning, and implementing care directly with other health care professionals, including physicians, pharmacists, social workers, clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners.


Clinical nurse leaders are registered nurses with a four year Bachelor degree in nursing, and must also possess an advanced degree, usually a Master’s Degree in the Science of Nursing. This is because they provide a higher level of care and responsibility beyond that of a registered nurse. For a list of approved clinical nurse programs, visit the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. CNLs are required to take advanced courses in pathophysiology, clinical assessment and pharmacology. Following the successful completion of the educational requirements, nurses are then eligible to sit for the clinical nurse leader certification exam. It is administered by Commission on Nurse Certifications, a separate branch of the AACN. Clinical nurse leaders must have strong leadership and management skills. They should also be able and willing to learn new techniques, procedures and the use of new technologies as they become available.

Most Popular RN-MSN Degree Programs

Registered nurses looking for career advancement and higher salaries would do well to look into earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. An RN to MSN specifically is a degree designed for registered nurses who may or may not have already completed a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN). Upon completion of an RN-MSN degree program, one will be educationally prepared to become a clinical nurse specialist or nurse practitioner. Below are online schools offering masters in nursing degrees.

Grand Canyon University
RN to MSN: Education
RN to MSN: Leadership
Grand Canyon University - Grand Canyon University offers an RN to MSN in Nursing Education and an RN to MSN in Leadership in Healthcare Systems. GCU has an exceptional record of students passing the NCLEX-RN examination, and graduates are frequently recruited by health care facilities. The RN to MSN in Leadership in Healthcare Systems uniquely combines graduate nursing core courses and courses taken with the MS in Leadership program, emphasizing communication skills.
Kaplan University
Kaplan University - Kaplan University's RN to MSN program allows students to complete their bachelor's degrees and MSN together, with the MSN program in a condensed format. In addition to learning everything from basic to advanced nursing practices, students can opt to get MSNs in Nurse Administration or Nurse Education if they want to pursue management or teaching positions. A DNP program is also available.
Walden University
Informatics (RN to MSN)
Education (RN to MSN)
Leadership/Management (RN to MSN)
Walden University - Walden University has specialized RN to MSN programs in Informatics, Education, and Leadership & Management. The RN to MSN in Informatics program combines nursing with computer science to help nurses use technology effectively to improve patient care. RN to MSN in Education incorporates teaching skills to the advanced nursing program. The RN to MSN in Leadership & Management prepares nurses for advanced careers and entry into management level positions.
Chamberlain College of Nursing
Chamberlain College of Nursing - Chamberlain College of Nursing makes the RN to MSN simple by offering two tracks: the Educator Track and the Executive Track. Courses are offered online and include classes on informatics, leadership, assessment and evaluation, managerial communication, as well as advanced nursing practices.

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