In order to become a nurse, an individual has to undergo years of rigorous training. After completing all the requirements, they finally receive their nursing license and become a registered nurse. That usually isn’t the end of their education, though; nurses in most states also have to complete Continuing Education Unit (CEU) courses as part of the license renewal process. These courses help refresh their knowledge of nursing, as well as keep them up-to-date on advancements in the medical field.
When you actually look into the specifics of fulfilling nursing CEU requirements, the details can make things look a bit complicated. Some nurses do the research themselves and put together their own list of courses, while others use sites like NursingCECentral.com to help them meet state-specific requirements.
Why do nurses need continuing education?
While the general purpose of CE courses is to continue your education (no surprises there), it’s a little different for nurses. Sure, it’s important for them to stay in touch with what’s happening in their field, but it’s also necessary in order for them to keep their licenses current. Regulations in most states mandate CEUs for nurses, and some employers do the same, regardless of which state they’re in.
There could be several consequences of not completing nursing CEU courses; they include losing bonuses, jobs, or even nursing licenses in some cases. If a nurse loses their license after not taking the appropriate CEU courses, the best-case scenario would be for them to resubmit appropriate documentation to the state’s board of nursing and ask to be reinstated. If that doesn’t go as hoped, they might have to retake the nurse’s licensing exam.
Benefits of CEUs for nurses
Aside from the above reasons for taking CEUs, what about the personal benefits that nurses get from these courses? Here’s a brief overview:
- It drives motivation, satisfaction, and confidence in their work. CEU courses are available on all different nursing-related topics, so nurses can choose courses that are personally interesting to them. The courses can be used to dive deeper into an area of specialization, strengthen weak areas, and more.
- It improves their chances of promotion or advancement. Whether they’re looking to move up the ladder at work or qualify for a new job somewhere else, CEUs can be used for many purposes. They can impart specific skillsets (like management or education), or award an advanced certification that’ll help them move to the next level in their careers.
- It helps them maintain current knowledge of developments in healthcare and evidence-based practice. In addition to elevating the quality of care that they’re able to provide, it can also potentially reduce the occurrence of errors due to misinformation or misjudgment.
Requirements for nursing CEU courses
It’s best to color inside the lines when it comes to nursing CEU requirements. That being the case, it’s important to figure out exactly where those lines are. Let’s start by covering some common acronyms that are frequently used in discussions about nursing CEUs.
- BRN – This acronym refers to approval by the Board of Registered Nursing for a CEU provider, meaning that it offers accredited CEU courses.
- CEU – Continuing Education Units are essentially a way to measure contact hours gained during an educational course; there are 10 contact hours per CEU.
- CNE – Continuing Nursing Education courses, which are designed with nursing professionals in mind.
- CE – Continuing Education, which is a broad term to describe job-related requirements for licensed professionals.
Most states that require nurses to complete CEUs have established a specific license renewal period; this varies from state to state. It could be once per year, or just once during a nurse’s career. This usually means that CEU courses have to be taken regularly, but nurses can’t work ahead and bank up extra contact hours. In almost all cases, any contact hours that are earned during one license renewal period can’t be applied to the subsequent renewal period.
Some states also mandate that a certain number of contact hours focus on specific topics. As an example, Michigan requires nurses to complete one hour minimum of pain management education.
Where can nurses access CEU courses?
In addition to all the other differences between CEU courses and regular educational classes, it’s pretty much a given that the nurses who take them will already have busy schedules. A nurse’s work schedule is notoriously erratic and demanding, which doesn’t leave much spare time for CEU courses. The good news is that there are quite a few options, so nurses can hopefully find the classes that work best with their hectic schedules.
- Online classes – These probably offer the most flexibility in terms of scheduling, since many online CEU courses are self-paced. They’re also available at a wide variety of price points, and give nurses the option to choose classes outside of what’s available locally.
- Through employers – This isn’t a universal offering from healthcare-related facilities, but larger organizations may have programs in place to assist their employees in completing CEU requirements. This could include paying the cost of professional development courses or even offering their own free or low-cost courses in-house.
- Academic sources –CEUs can take many different formats, such as college courses, professional seminars or conferences, workshops, or even getting published in an authoritative journal. They can also be obtained by developing curricula for new academic courses, or by teaching courses themselves.
It’s important to note that just because a course is nursing-related doesn’t mean it’s a CEU. For example, a seminar that covers topics relevant to nurses won’t necessarily contribute any contact hours. In order to count as a CEU, a course has to be accredited by either the state’s board of nursing or by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
There are plenty of details to figure out if you’re looking into taking nursing CEUs for the first time. Even if you’ve done it before, you might need a refresher on the topic. Either way, once you have the basics down you’ll be prepared to complete the CEUs you need and keep your nursing career moving forward.