Thinking About Making a Meaningful Career Change?
by Sydney R. Hardy

Have you been thinking about changing careers? But you don’t have a clue as to how to make the switch in a timeframe best suited for your lifestyle . . . look no further.

The School of Nursing in the College of Health and Human Services at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) is preparing to launch its new Master’s-level nursing program – the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) – in summer 2006. The CNL is a role option within the Master’s Program in nursing for individuals who already possess a bachelor’s degree in any field, who want to pursue a career in nursing. This full-time accelerated nursing program leads to a master’s degree as a Clinical Nurse Leader and prepares the graduate to sit for the registered nurse licensing exam (NCLEX). The CNL program is specifically designed for individuals with varied career backgrounds, such as accountant, engineer, teacher, hospital administrator, police officer, or chiropractor, who want to improve the health of individuals, families and communities.

The CNL role option is an intensive 18-month, 72 unit program that requires 1100+ hours of clinical work including an internship, and combines classroom and on-line coursework. The curriculum emphasizes the theories, research, competencies and values necessary for strong clinical leadership and evidence-based nursing practice at the bedside. Students study subjects such as pathophysiology, pharmacology, health assessment, health policy, systems theory, ethics, and nursing care related to specific medical conditions. They receive hands-on practice in a state-of-the-art skills lab loaded with high tech patient simulators that imitate real life experiences in patient care. Then they focus on providing care for children, adults and elders who have various healthcare problems in our partner hospitals and community settings. The CNL students are expected to have a major impact on improving their patients’ health and the healthcare systems.

“Due to the serious shortage of nurses, the CNL program is a way to address the shortfall in the nursing workforce,” says Carole A. Shea, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, Director of the School of Nursing. “This program appeals to individuals looking for a satisfying career, and those with altruistic motivation who are people-oriented,” adds Dr. Shea. “Most of the students who will enroll in this program are individuals who have substantive professional backgrounds. We look forward to offering a special program that will build on their experience and expertise to not only change their careers, but change and enrich the ‘face’ of nursing. We expect to attract a diverse group of applicants crossing all ages, genders, and ethnicities, thus reflecting the patient population we serve,” says Dr. Shea.

Initially, 20 slots will be available to a large applicant pool. Due to the various opportunities afforded a nurse with CNL training, it is anticipated that many will find the CNL option appealing because of the career mobility and the opportunity to work in diverse care settings. CNLs are needed in home healthcare, county/public health facilities, hospitals and medical centers. CNLs work as generalists, and as part of an interdisciplinary team that can include nurses trained in specialized nursing roles, physicians, mental health workers, and other health care professionals. “The CNL nursing role truly allows mature professionals with different backgrounds to engage in meaningful work and practice in a new field at a higher level, right from the start,” says Dr. Shea. “In other fields, career changers new to a professional field often don’t have this chance. To add to the perks, salaries in the nursing field are much higher than they have been in the recent past. The CNL nursing role is a career with limitless opportunities,” Dr. Shea says.

Entry-level master’s programs are a great way for professionals to enter into the field of nursing without taking the traditional route through a RN program at a community college. That route can be a long, drawn-out process for a person who already has a track record in another field of work. “Students who graduate from our CNL program will bring a different level of leadership to the nursing field to enhance patient care,” says Dr. Shea. “I wish I had this option when I was pursuing my nursing degree. After completing two years of nursing, I had to drop out of school to raise a family. Once I was at a point where I could resume pursuing my educational goals, I had to start all over again. It was during that time in my education that I thought there had to be a better way to educate the nursing workforce.”

The CNL program will require a full-time commitment to the educational program. However, because the program is intensive, students can count on beginning their nursing career after only 18 months of study. Over the long haul this plan is quite economical and takes less of a toll on students’ family and other social responsibilities.

“The CNL program is an exciting and innovative program that allows health related professionals who are not nurses to efficiently pursue a career in nursing at a very high level of responsibility and skill level,” says Dr. Mitchell Maki, Dean for the College of Health and Human Services. “This program accelerates CSU Dominguez Hills’ commitment to having a cutting edge nursing program that addresses the preparation of nursing professionals across the continuum.”

For more information about the Master’s CNL role option, please contact Dr. Carole Shea at


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