The University of San Francisco: School of Nursing and Health Professions

Clinical Nurse Leader for the Non-nurse Frequently Asked Questions

Program/Application Questions

What is the Clinical Nurse Leader?

The Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) is an emerging nursing role developed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) in collaboration with an array of leaders from the practice environment. Two AACN task forces were convened to identify (1) how to improve the quality of patient care and (2) how to best prepare nurses with the competencies needed to thrive in the current and future healthcare system. The CNL role is not one of administration or management. The CNL is a leader in healthcare delivery across all settings, not just in acute care. Implementation of this role will vary across settings.

CNLs are providers and managers of patient care. They design, implement, and evaluate care by coordinating, delegating, and supervising the services provided by their team, which includes licensed nurses, technicians, and other health professionals. Broadly, it is a national initiative in response to patient care needs and the current methods of health care delivery.

The successful CNL emphasizes disease prevention and universal access to high-quality, cost-effective, and culturally competent care for all patients. CNLs are trained to implement evidence-based best practices, evaluate potential risks to patient safety, identify and monitor care outcomes, provide education to various communities, and design health-promotion and risk-reduction services for diverse populations.

How is a CNL Different from Other Advanced Nursing Careers?

Clinical Nurse Leaders (CNL) are typically generalists while Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) are trained specifically for specialty practice. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, "the CNL coordinates and implements client care, while the CNS designs and evaluates patient-specific and population-based programs." Additionally, "The CNL evaluates and implements evidence-based practice while the CNS has the added responsibility of generating new evidence … the roles are distinct and complementary."

How long is the Clinical Nurse Leader program for the non-nurse?

The program takes 2 years, or 6 semesters. Courses are held year-round, in the fall, spring, and summer.

How much is the program?

For the 2015-­2016 academic year, the cost is $1,245 per credit.  The program is 68 credits, so the total tuition will cost approximately $84,600. You can expect to pay about $3,000 more for books, clinical fees, etc.

Do I receive an RN license?

Yes! After the 5th semester, you will take the NCLEX exam. At this point, we have a 100% pass rate for the NCLEX at the Master’s level.

Where do I get the application? Do I have to apply online?

You are required to complete the application online. All documents (transcripts, resume, personal statement, and letters) should be uploaded through the online application. You may access the online application at the following website: Please note, we will not accept any paper application materials.  

Can I submit unofficial transcripts?

You may upload official or unofficial copies of your transcripts as long as they are readable and include your name, grades, GPA, and name of the school. Transcripts must also reflect any degree earned at the institution. If you are accepted and decide to attend, we will then require you to mail official transcripts from all schools attended.

What is the minimum GPA requirement? 

The minimum GPA requirement is 3.0. 

Do I still have a chance of being accepted if my GPA is less than 3.0?

We take a holistic approach when reviewing applications.  The minimum GPA requirement is 3.0, but we accept applicants who have less than a 3.0 under certain circumstances. Doing well in prerequisite courses along with relevant work and volunteer experience can improve your application. We do not base acceptance solely on grades or any other single factor. We look at the whole application packet to make a decision.

Do you look at the entire undergraduate transcript or just the last 60 credits of the undergraduate GPA?

We look at the cumulative GPA from your undergraduate degree, as well as GPAs from all institutions attended.  We look at the prerequisite grades separately. The average GPA for admitted students is 3.4.

Does USF offer financial aid or scholarships?

We do offer financial aid. US citizens and permanent residents in the non-nurse program are eligible for up to $20,500 per year, in unsubsidized federal loans. You can apply for Graduate PLUS loans to make up the remainder of the cost. Many candidates also look online for appropriate scholarships or grants.

Do you require a CNA license?

No, we do not require a CNA license, although it will put you at a slight advantage to have one.

Do you require the GRE or TEAS test?

No, we do not.

How often do you accept applications? What are the deadlines? Do you accept applications on a rolling basis?

We accept applications two times a year. The deadlines are October 15th for spring (January), and February 1st for summer (May). We do not accept applications on a rolling basis, so please apply within the appropriate deadline window. These are strict deadlines and all of your materials should be in by the designated time. We will begin review on the deadline day.

How can I find the semester timelines?

Please refer to the five year academic calendar to see when each semester starts and ends and when you will have your holiday breaks:

Do you conduct interviews for the program?

No, we do not conduct interviews. The admissions committee carefully reviews each applicant’s personal statement instead.

Who should I have write the letters of recommendation? Can I have them sent directly to the school?

Letters of recommendation should be from individuals who can speak to either your academic or intellectual readiness for graduate level work, or your professional capacities or experiences. Our online application allows the applicant to supply the names and email addresses of their recommenders. Upon receiving those, USF will contact your recommenders by email with instructions to complete their information and upload their letter. Please note that we will not accept paper letters of recommendation, or any other paper application materials.

What should be included in the personal statement?

You personal statement should be a 1 to 3 page document that describes your reasons for pursuing a master's degree and for choosing the graduate nursing program at the University of San Francisco. The statement should relate your past experiences to a career in nursing, your understanding of the profession and the CNL role at USF, and future career goals. We recommend that any student applying with less than a 3.0 GPA include in their personal statement a brief explanation of their past grades and why they have the ability to be successful in the MSN program at USF.

Approximately how many people apply to the non­‐nurse program? How many do you accept? Do you have a waitlist?

We typically receive between 250-­400 applications per semester, and we admit approximately 40. We keep a waitlist for the relevant application cycle but this waitlist does not roll over the following semester.

Can I defer enrollment?

No, you may not defer enrollment. Should you be admitted to the program but find yourself unable to attend, you will need to re-apply.  

How do I re-apply?

In order to re­‐apply, simply go to the online application and fill out a new application. We are not able to provide individual feedback on your application, however we recommend that you submit an updated resume, statement and different letters of recommendation to strengthen your application. Please note that you will need to resubmit all application materials, as we are unable to keep any previous application materials on file.  

When do I find out if I have been accepted?

We try to let you know approximately 6-8 weeks after the deadline.

Prerequisite Questions

Do the prerequisites have a time limit?

The sciences (anatomy, physiology, and microbiology lecture and lab) have a seven year limit. There is no time limit on the other prerequisites.

Is there any way I can waive a prerequisite?

No, you must complete all of the prerequisites. We also cannot accept any substitutions; however, we can accept passing CLEP scores for certain prerequisite courses.  To learn more about the CLEP test, please visit

If I retake a prerequisite, will you take the higher grade?

Yes, we will. We look at the average between both.

Can prerequisites be in progress as I apply? Is there a limit to the number of classes I can have in progress?

Yes, you can be in the process of completing prerequisites when you apply. However, a student cannot matriculate into our program unless all of the prerequisites are completed before our term begins. Please be sure to check the USF academic calendar and the calendar of the institution where you are taking your prerequisites to make sure they do not overlap.

Can I take Anatomy, Physiology, and Microbiology online?

You can take the lectures to these sciences online, but you may not take the labs online. Labs must be taken in person.

Can I take the Public Speaking prerequisite online?

Similarly to the science labs, the public speaking class must in done in person and cannot be completed online.

Can I use interpersonal communication for the Public Speaking prerequisite requirement? Can I use previous public speaking experience to meet the requirement?

No, you cannot. We only accept a Public Speaking and/or Oral Communication course that focuses on developing and delivering public speeches. We cannot accept substitutions, including public speaking experience.