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The Academic Clinical Nurse Educator

Christensen, Linda; Simmons, Larry E.

Nursing Education Perspectives: May/June 2019 - Volume 40 - Issue 3 - p 196
doi: 10.1097/01.NEP.0000000000000509
DEPARTMENTS: Headlines from the NLN

About the Authors Linda Christensen, EdD, JD, RN, is chief governance officer, and Larry E. Simmons, PhD, RN, CNE, NEA-BC, is director, Certification Program, National League for Nursing, Washington, DC. For more information, contact Dr. Simmons at

The authors have declared no conflict of interest.

In the early 2000s, the National League for Nursing (NLN) identified the need to articulate the role of the academic nurse educator. This resulted in the identification of the full scope of the role of the academic nurse educator through the development of evidence-based competencies and related task statements. In early 2015, the idea for articulating the specific role of the academic clinical nurse educator began to take root.

The NLN formed a task group to analyze the literature with the idea of developing role competencies and task statements related to the academic clinical nurse educator role. The task group arrived at consensus on the role and presented the resulting competencies and related task statements to the NLN community for review and feedback. After comments were considered by the task group, the final version of the competencies and task statements was released (Shellenbarger, 2018).

Based on the delineation of the role of the academic clinical nurse educator, a decision was made to move forward with the development of a certification examination. A practice analysis was developed, and academic clinical nurse educators were asked to assist in validation of the task statements associated with the role. The results of the practice analysis provided the basis for the creation of a certification test blueprint. After certification exam test items were developed, two forms of an exam were established, and pilot testing was conducted in the late summer/fall of 2018. After passing scores were psychometrically set, the Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator (CNE®cl) certification program was officially launched in October 2018.

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The academic clinical nurse educator may be known by a variety of titles (e.g., clinical faculty, part-time faculty, adjunct faculty, preceptor, clinical instructor). A core definition was developed that would encompass many of the titles being used and clearly delineate the professional role attributes: “The academic nurse educator facilitates the learning of nursing students throughout clinical components of an academic nursing program. The educator is guided…by faculty of the nursing program and is accountable to the nursing program for providing fair evaluations of learners’ performance in meeting expected learning outcomes” (NLN, 2019).

The academic clinical nurse educator submits evaluations of learners’ performance that result in academic credit for the clinical learning experience. The academic clinical nurse educator also provides direct supervision of the student learner in the clinical setting. The purpose of the CNEcl certification exam is to validate expertise in the defined role of the academic clinical nurse educator. The goals of CNEcl certification are as follows:

  1. Distinguish academic clinical nursing education as a specialty area of practice.
  2. Recognize the academic clinical nurse educator’s specialized knowledge, skills, and abilities and excellence in clinical teaching.
  3. Strengthen the use of selected core competencies of academic clinical nurse educator practice.
  4. Contribute to academic clinical nurse educator professional development.
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The mission of the NLN is to promote excellence in nursing education to build a strong and diverse nursing workforce to advance the health of our nation and the global community. Various products and services of the NLN, such as certification, contribute to meeting the mission. Since the earlier work that established the role of the academic nurse educator, those competencies and task statements have been used as a basis for faculty development, faculty evaluation, curriculum development, and research into the faculty role (Halstead, 2018). The articulation of the academic clinical nurse educator role has the same potential to promote nursing education overall.

Certification in any field stands as achieving a mark of excellence for the certificants. Certifications, particularly in nursing education, are particularly viewed as a mark of distinction and goal attainment for all nursing faculty striving to excel in educational and practice endeavors.

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Halstead J. A. (Ed.). (2018). NLN core competencies for nurse educators: A decade of influence. Washington, DC: National League for Nursing.
National League for Nursing. (2019). Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator (CNE®cl): 2019 Candidate handbook. Retrieved from
Shellenbarger T. (Ed.). (2018). Clinical nurse educator competencies: Creating an evidence-based practice for academic clinical nurse educators. Washington, DC: National League for Nursing.
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