December 8, 2019
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Top 20 Online Programs in Clinical Nurse Leadership 2019

By HMDG Staff
August 2019

Healthcare Management Degree Guide - Top Online Degree Programs
The Clinical Nurse Leader is a relatively new role in the field of nursing. Nurses have taken on new and more important roles to meet the needs of both patients and the facilities that care for them. The Clinical Nurse Leader role is a master’s level program (often offered as a specialization within the MSN) that provides nurses with the skills and knowledge to excel at:

  • care coordination
  • outcomes measurement
  • transitions of care
  • interprofessional communication and team leadership
  • risk assessment
  • implementation of evidence based best practices
  • quality improvement.

A clinical nurse leader (CNL) is a highly skilled nurse with the primary goal of improving quality and safety outcomes for patients or patient populations. Completing a CNL program online is a great way for working nurses to build upon their knowledge and skills without needing to take a break from their current position.

We created this ranking of the top 20 online CNL programs in the country. We came up with our initial list of programs from College Navigator and the AACN. To narrow our list, we considered only programs that offered an online program that prepares students for actual CNL certification through specialized or focused coursework. From that list, we applied our ranking criteria to determine the top 20 online CNL programs from accredited universities in the United States.

Student to Faculty Ratio

  • 10:1 or less= 3 Points
  • 11:1 to 15:1=2 Points
  • Greater than 15:1= 1 Point

Average Graduate Tuition

  • Less than $10,000 per year= 4 Points
  • $10,000 to $15,000 per year= 3 Points
  • $15,000 to $20,000 per year= 2 Points
  • More than $20,000 per year= 1 Point

Ranking the Top 20 Online Programs in Clinical Nurse Leadership

#20 – Drexel University – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

MSN Clinical Nurse Leader

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $34,155/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 11:1
Points: 3
Drexel University features a top CNL online accredited by the CCNE. Faculty are experienced and board certified professionals from Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions. The highly interactive online learning method allows students to feel challenged and engaged without the need to come to campus. The program consists of four-10 week quarters per year which means students can take more classes in a shorter time period. Courses cover areas like:

  • advanced pharmacology
  • the business of healthcare
  • quality and safety in healthcare

Flexible clinical practicum scheduling and settings are ideal for working professionals.

#19 – Texas Christian University – Fort Worth, Texas

MSN Clinical Nurse Leader

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $29,340/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 13:1
Points: 3
Texas Christian University offers a top online Clinical Nurse Leader MSN that prepares students to work with all patient populations in all practice sessions. To be considered for the program, students should have at least one year of full-time experience as an RN. Students can earn their degree in two years of full-time study or three years if part-time. Courses cover areas like:

  • health care policy and law
  • financial concepts in health care
  • leadership in clinical microsystems

Clinical practicum experiences can be completed close to home when possible. New students can begin the program during the spring or summer term.

#18 – Sacred Heart University – Fairfield, Connecticut

MSN Clinical Nurse Leader Online

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $26,524/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 14:1
Points: 3
The top online CNL program at Sacred Heart University features a leading Clinical Nurse Leader MSN program that prepares students to become leaders in health care delivery. Courses are offered in a convenient asynchronous format, allowing students 24/7 access to course content. Classes are eight weeks long and most students can complete the program in two years. Students complete core coursework in areas like:

  • healthcare policy and ethics
  • comprehensive health assessment methods
  • care management

Clinical Nurse Leader students complete a 348 clock hour role immersion experience that prepares them to sit for the AACN CNL certification exam.

#17 – University of Pittsburg – Pittsburg, Pennsylvania

Clinical Nurse Leader Online

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $22,846/year in-state and $38,736/year out-of-state
Student to Faculty Ratio: 14:1
Points: 3
The School of Nursing at the University of Pittsburg features a top online Clinical Nurse Leader MSN program available through a highly interactive online learn platform. Coursework covers:

  • leadership development
  • organizational and management theory
  • applied statistics
  • healthcare quality
  • ethics

Students are engaged through discussion, active learning, critical thinking, and community building. Clinical experiences can be completed in a supervised setting near the students’ home, eliminating the need to relocate.

#16 – Rush University – Chicago, Illinois

MSN Nursing Leadership Program: Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL)

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $36,788/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 5:1
Points: 4
The Clinical Nurse Leader program offered by Rush University is an MSN program designed for current RNs. Coursework covers a range of topics, including:

  • organizational and systems leadership
  • healthcare economics, policy and finance
  • advanced pathophysiology

This part-time program is limited to just 24 students in each class and takes two years to complete. Coursework is offered online and clinicals can be completed at the student’s place of employment. Program graduates are in demand by acute care and community settings.

#15 – University of Detroit Mercy – Detroit, Michigan

Clinical Nurse Leader — Master of Science in Nursing

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $28,422/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 10:1
Points: 4
The top online Clinical Nurse Leader program at the University of Detroit Mercy prepares students to address contemporary healthcare issues. This 38 credit hour program leads to an MSN. This student-centered online program is open to both part-time and full-time students. Courses cover areas like:

  • business planning for nurse leaders
  • population health and care transitions management
  • outcomes management and decision support in nursing advanced pharmacology

Students can complete their clinical immersion experience at a site near their home, making this program convenient for working professionals. Graduates are eligible to sit for the CNL exam offered by the AACN Commission on Nurse Certification.

#14 – Western University of Health Sciences – Pomona, California

Master of Science in Nursing, Health Systems Leadership – Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) track

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $22,489/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 1:1
Points: 4
Western University of Health Sciences features a flexible online MSN with a CNL program track. Students will learn to put evidence-based practice into action using the latest in health care delivery. Students come to campus twice each semester for intensive weekend seminars that include didactic instruction, student presentations, and group project work. The curriculum includes courses in:

  • Management Principles and Leadership Theories
  • Biostatistics and Epidemiology
  • Advanced Health Systems
  • Advanced Nurse Leaders as Educators

Most students can complete the program in two years, but students can choose an extended track option if they feel this pace would better fit their professional goals.

#13 – Saint Louis University – Saint Louis, University

Nursing (M.S.N. – Clinical Nurse Leader) Online

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $20,340/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 9:1
Points: 4
The top online CNL program offered by Saint Louis University is taught by nationally recognized faculty in areas of teaching excellence and scholarly research. This CNL MSN program is offered in a flexible online format to part-time students and can be completed in just five semesters. Coursework covers:

  • Advanced Assessment and Clinical Decision Making
  • Ethics in Nursing& Health Care
  • Health Promotion
  • Health Care Systems & Policy

All students complete 400 clinical hours which includes:

  • 75 hours in advanced assessment
  • 150 hours in advanced clinical studies
  • 175 in clinical leadership

Graduates are eligible to sit for the CNL exam offered by the AACN Commission on Nurse Certification.

#12 – Saint Xavier University – Chicago, Illinois

MSN in Clinical Leadership

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $16,000/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 14:1
Points: 4
Saint Xavier University features a top online CNL program considered 3rd in the country by U.S. News and World Report. Offered as a program track within the MSN, the CNL is a comprehensive program featuring a blend of coursework emphasizing:

  • Health Care Systems and Financing
  • Epidemiology and Population Based Health Care
  • Communication, Culture, Collaboration, and Conflict in Health Care

Graduates are well prepared to sit for the CNL exam for national certification. Pass rates for Saint Xavier University students are above the national average.

#11 – Creighton University – Omaha, Nebraska

Online MSN-Clinical Nurse Leader

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $15,660/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 11:1
Points: 4
The top online CNL program offered by Creighton University is designed for BSN nurses who want to be  more efficient critical thinkers and team leaders in their organization. Most courses are offered online, but students are expected to have some campus visits. This 37 credit hour program includes 600 supervised clinical hours. Coursework covers areas like:

  • Financial Organization of U. S. Healthcare
  • Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
  • Practical Ethics in Health Care Settings

There is no GRE score required for admission. Graduates have the skills needed to be a leader in today’s rapidly changing health care environment.

#10 – University of Massachusetts – Amherst, Massachusetts

Online Master of Science Clinical Nurse Leader

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $13,606/year in-state and $28,669/year out-of-state
Student to Faculty Ratio: 18:1
Points: 4
UMass Online features a top online CNL program with first rate faculty who have a commitment to the student experience. Full-time students can complete their degree in about two years. Courses cover areas like:

  • informatics
  • advanced pharmacology
  • epidemiology
  • health care quality

Students will develop the skills needed to lead intra- and interdisciplinary teams and meet the demands of a complex care delivery system. Students planning to continue their medical training will find this program lays a strong foundation for future doctoral education.

#9 – James Madison University – Harrisonburg, Virginia

Online MSN — Clinical Nurse Leader Concentration

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $10,512/year in-state and $27,830/year out-of-state
Student to Faculty Ratio: 16:1
Points: 4
The top online Clinical Nurse Leader MSN program at the James Madison University School of Nursing is designed to prepare students to improve patient outcomes through effective leadership strategies. Coursework covers areas like:

  • Epidemiology and Population Assessment
  • Leadership Development
  • Organizational Behavior in Health Care

The program is open to both full and part-time students. It includes a 400 clock hour clinical practicum focused on the delivery systems and functions that influence the quality of patient care. Full-time students can complete the program in just two years while part-time students can finish in three. Graduates are qualified to sit for the CNL certification exam.

#8 – Lander University – Greenwood, South Carolina

Master of Science in Nursing, Clinical Nurse Leader Online

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $11,800/year in-state and $22,500/year out-of-state
Student to Faculty Ratio: 14:1
Points: 5
Lander University features a top CNL online designed for students who aspire to become leaders within their healthcare team. This CCNE accredited program is offered in a flexible online format that allows student to earn their degree while continuing to work. Courses cover areas like:

  • advanced pharmacology
  • health promotion/disease prevention
  • healthcare structure & finance

This 39 credit hour top CNL program is taught by expert faculty who stay up to date on the latest best practices in the field. Graduates are prepared for roles like:

  • outcomes manager
  • team manager
  • advocate
  • systems analyst.

#7 – University of South Alabama – Mobile, Alabama

Clinical Nurse Leader

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $7,956/year in-state and $15,912/year out-of-state
Student to Faculty Ratio: 18:1
Points: 5
The Clinical Nurse Leader online program at the University of South Alabama is a three-semester post-baccalaureate program with coursework and an immersion clinical experience. Courses cover areas like:

  • healthcare policy and finance
  • organizational and systems leadership
  • pharmacology for advanced practice nursing
  • advanced nursing assessment

The interactive online format allows students to engage in active learning, discussion and problem solving. Courses are available in a flexible online format. Clinical requirements can be completed in the student’s own community. Graduates are prepared for success working in different roles as:

  • information managers
  • team leaders
  • systems analysts/risk anticipators.

#6 – University of Louisiana – Monroe, Louisiana

Master of Science in Nursing – Clinical Nurse Leader Concentration Online

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $6,490/year in-state and $18,590/year out-of-state
Student to Faculty Ratio: 19:1
Points: 5
The online Clinical Nurse Leader concentration offered by the University of Louisiana Monroe is a 38 credit hour program that can be completed in just 20 months. Students complete a series of 13-eight week courses that cover areas like:

  • Quality Improvement & Patient Safety
  • Economics & Finance
  • Health Policy & Global Health
  • Advanced Pathophysiology

To be considered for the program, students should have a BSN from an accredited institution and two years of relevant clinical experience. Graduates come away with a high level of clinical leadership skills and are capable of being successful in roles like CNO, Chief Executive, or Administrator.

#5 – Central Methodist University – Fayette, Missouri

Master of Science in Nursing-CNL Online

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $5,940/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 17:1
Points: 5
The top online CNL program offered by Central Methodist University is accredited by the CCNE. The program follows a cohort format with a minimum of 10-12 people per cohort. The CNL track includes coursework in areas like:

  • Evidence-Based Client Care Management
  • Health Care Issues
  • Health Care Finance/Policy/Economics
  • Epidemiology

CNL students complete a residency of 300 click hours, allowing them to work in the CNL role under the supervision of a mentor. Students then share their experience through online discussions.

#4 – University of Central Arkansas – Conway, Arkansas

Clinical Nurse Leader MSN Program

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $4,807/year in-state and $9,614/year out-of-state
Student to Faculty Ratio: 16:1
Points: 5
The University of Central Arkansas features a top online Clinical Nurse Leader MSN program designed for current RNs with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited nursing program. Clinical Nurse Leader specialized courses cover healthcare quality and leadership and healthcare informatics. All students complete two immersion courses totaling 400 clock hours to gain hands-on training. Students complete 400 clinical hours over the course of two immersion practices. Courses are offered entirely online and students only need to come to campus for an orientation at the start of the program.

#3 – Queens University – Charlotte, North Carolina

Online MSN — Clinical Nurse Leader Specialization

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $12,608/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 10:1
Points: 6
The top MSN online Clinical Nurse Leader specialization at Queens University is designed for students who want to stand out as leaders in their organization and improve the health and safety of patients. The program is taught by faculty who are passionate about their field and motivated to see their students succeed. Courses are offered in a convenient online format, covering areas like:

  • Management of Clinical Outcomes
  • Management of the Care Environment
  • Leadership Principles and Practices

All students complete a 300 clock hour clinical nursing residency in their own community to demonstrate leadership by managing the care environment and patient outcomes. Students also complete a capstone project, conducting a scholarly evidence-based nursing project.

#2 – Augusta University – Augusta, Georgia

Clinical Nurse Leader Online Program

School Profile
Average Graduate Tuition: $5,144/year in-state and $17,544/year out-of-state
Student to Faculty Ratio: 15:1
Points: 6
The top Clinical Nurse Leader MSN online offered by Augusta University is a bridge program for students holding an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in nursing. Both full and part-time program options are available. Students with their BSN can complete their CNL in just two years of full-time study. Courses cover areas like:

  • Health Care Delivery Models, Economics and Policy
  • Evidence Based Practice in Nursing and Healthcare
  • Integrated Health Care: Population Health
  • Advanced Professional Health Assessment

Graduates are eligible to sit for the CNL exam offered by the AACN.

#1 – Columbia College of Nursing – Glendale, Wisconsin

Masters of Science in Nursing – Clinical Nurse Leader

Website
Average Graduate Tuition: $6,000/year
Student to Faculty Ratio: 7:1
Points: 7
Our top choice for an online CNL program is offered by Columbia College of Nursing. CCON is the longest standing Nursing College in Wisconsin, educating students for over 100 years. This 17 month MSN-CNL program is designed for the working professional RN. With a small faculty to student ratio and a flexible online format, students are set up for success. Courses cover areas like:

  • quality safety and outcomes
  • advanced health and physical assessment
  • role development
  • transformational leadership

Graduates are eligible to sit for the CNL certification exam offered by the Commission on Nursing Certification.