Continuing Education Archive

Continuing Education

Because the medical field is in a constant state of change, nursing continuing education provides opportunities for nurses at all levels of practice to refresh their skill-set and remain up-to-date with advances in the field. Many states also require continuing education in order to renew your  nursing license.

Continuing Education Definitions:

  • Contact Hours: A contact hour is generally defined as 50 continuous clock minutes of participation in state-board approved continuing education coursework or activities (i.e. clinical training).
  • Continuing Education Units: One continuing education unit (CEU) is equivalent to 10 contact hours (1 CEU=10 contact hours) Most nursing continuing education courses are measured by CEUs to meet the requirements as set by individual state boards. For example,  two classes that total 20 contact hours will provide the equivalent of 2 CEUs.

Benefits of a Nursing Continuing Education

While nursing continuing education is required for most nursing careers, it is also confers definite benefits. For example, a master’s degree can lead to career advancement opportunities, along with significantly higher salaries.

Beyond the career benefits, nursing continuing education will also enable you to update your knowledge with regard to recent developments in the healthcare field and stay current with technological advances. For example, if you are a intensive care nurse (ICN) or critical care nurse (CCN) you know that these fields are constantly introducing new technology and treatment methods that you need to remain updated about in order to be an effective practitioner and provide quality patient care. Other fast-growing practice areas such as reproductive health and rehabilitative medicine are also making rapid advances with regard to treatment and technology. Many times, these new developments point to the way toward whole new nursing specialties, as is now the case with nursing informatics.


State-board Approved Coursework

Most state boards of nursing will accept a wide range of coursework and experience in fulfilling nursing continuing education requirements as long as they are nurse-related. However, because requirements do vary between states, it is best to check with your state board of nursing to determine specific continuing education requirements. You may find the contact for your State board of nursing by visiting the Web site of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (

Most state boards of nursing will permit nurses to take continuing education courses that are part of other healthcare professions if you can provide a statement that explains how the course relates to your nursing specialty area. To be safe, check with your state board of nursing before officially enrolling in any course that is not specifically designed for  nursing professionals.

In general, nursing continuing education requirements may not be satisfied by any activities that are part of your nursing job description.  This means that you cannot satisfy nursing continuing education requirements by providing on-the-job patient care, attending any in-service training or orientation classes, participation in the formulation of facility-based policies and procedures that are specific to your role, or by attendance at department meetings and seminars.

You do not need to submit continuing education credits to your nursing state board unless you are being audited. However, it is still a good idea to keep records of all nursing continuing credits you have accrued for at least two years (or two consecutive registration periods). You are required to submit proof of continuing education when you are renewing your nursing license. Check with your state board for renewal periods.

Nursing Continuing Education Coursework

Nursing continuing education coursework can include everything from critical care nursing, home health nursing, geriatric nursing, mental health nursing, etc.—and can be completed either through traditional classroom study or distance learning programs.  The options are numerous from taking a refresher course in pediatric nursing to fulfilling the requirements for a master’s degree in an advanced practice area.

Where to Take Nursing Continuing Education Courses

Nursing continuing education courses are offered in a variety of settings. You may choose to attend a workshop, attend a seminar or conference, or enroll in courses offered by nursing schools. Online study offers a very convenient method for busy nurses who are balancing other responsibilities to complete nursing continuing education credits. Online courses may take as little as a couple of hours to complete or weeks and months, even years, depending on the specific program.

No matter the venue where you take your nursing continuing education credits, make sure that the courses are approved by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association (ANC). In most cases, courses accredited by the ANCC will be acceptable to your State Board of Nursing.

Nursing Continuing Education for Advanced Degrees

A registered nurse has completed a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, a two-year Associate’s of Science in Nursing degree program (ASN) or a three-year diploma program. Advanced practice nurses (APRN) such as nurse practitioner (NP), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), nurse-midwives, nurse anesthetists are required to have a master’s degree. Registered nurses may pursue a master’s degree within a traditional classroom program or online.  Most programs can be completed n a one or two year period and the courses you take as part of your graduate study can be counted toward nursing continuing education requirements. Advanced courses are typically offered in the following areas:

  • Clinical pharmacology
  • Advanced clinical practice (patient care)
  • Holistic nursing
  • Nursing theory and practice
  • Health care policy
  • Nursing Administration and consultation services
  • Health evaluation assessment
  • Patient care management
  • Patient education with regard to preventative care and disease management

Nursing continuing education master’s programs make it possible for nurses to advance their career in such areas as hospital administration, management, education, teaching, and research. They serve to build on the foundation of nursing theory and practice that you obtained as part of your registered nurse education. Nurses with master’s degrees play a critical role in managing complex healthcare systems and advancing the quality of patient care. Advanced practice nurses also serve as mentors to new nurses and teach in both undergraduate and graduate nursing programs. In time, they may be considered thought-leaders within their area of practice.

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