Registered nursing continuing education programs are a big part of being a nurse in just about every state. Continuing educational programs for nurses aren’t intended to allow them to further their educations (though there are certificate programs that can), they are simply intended to keep current nurses abreast of changes in nursing, and make sure that all of a state’s practicing nurses are at the top of their game.
Here is an example of the process:
A student enrolls and is accepted into a bachelors degree nursing program, and eventually graduates.
He or she takes their National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, and passes.
As a registered nurse, his or her license is good for approximately three years. To renew it, he or she must pay a fee.
The next renewal cycle begins.
In order to be able to renew his or her license at the end of this period, the nurse must take thirty hours of continuing education before his or her license expires.
The times given in this example are approximations. Each state has different nurse licensing guidelines, so not all of them will fit this situation exactly.
Why is Continuing Education for Registered Nurses Necessary?
Continuing education may seem inconvenient at first blush, but the fact is that medicine changes all of the time as new treatments and patient care strategies are researched. A nurse that has been practicing for the past fifteen years has likely seen a whole host of changes to the way healthcare professionals practice medicine, and continuing education programs force this nurse to keep abreast of changes that affect him or her.
Since continuing education programs also require nurses to take classes that are a higher level than the coursework they were required to do to pass their licensure exam, continuing education also helps registered nurses improve their standard of patient care. In general, classes that aren’t related to nursing (like liberal arts classes) or are related only distantly (like classes in yoga instruction) are not considered valid continuing education programs for nurses.
The Board of Nursing and Continuing Education
Every state has a Board of Nursing that governs educational requirements, including registered nurse continuing education. Just like all new nursing students should contact their state’s Board of Nursing for lists of approved nursing schools, existing nurses should contact their state’s Board of Nursing for lists of approved RN continuing education programs, and license renewal requirements.
Not all states’ regulations are the same, so its not possible to make a generalization that reflects all Boards of Nursing and their attitudes toward continuing education. Some require more hours, some less, and some require nurses to take renewal exams regardless of whether or not they are reinstating an expired license.
Is There Any Way to Avoid Continuing Education?
Registered nurse continuing education is a necessity, so there isn’t a way around it for most nurses. Fortunately, there are several ways that nurses can choose to go about their continuing education, to make life a little bit easier on themselves. They can handle all of their educational requirements through online or home study courses, and many states allow nurses to handle an unlimited amount of their continuing education hours this way. They can also go to a local college with an approved nursing continuing education program, and take campus based classes. In those situations, states generally have guidelines for how many hours of instruction each semester is worth.
A few nurses may be exempt from continuing education if they meet specific criteria. Depending on a particular state’s regulations, nurses that have only recently become licensed can have amnesty for a short period of time following their nursing licensure exam. Nurses that are retiring, leaving the nursing profession, or requesting to have their licenses made “inactive” for any other reason also do not have to pursue continuing education.
Registered nurse continuing education programs are a way to make sure that healthcare workers stay up to date on changes going on in their industry, and that their skill sets are always fresh. Nursing is a difficult profession that changes pretty rapidly, but continuing education programs allow nurses to remain viable members of their industry, no matter how long it’s been since they first graduated.