Continuing Education Requirements Vary By State

Becoming a nurse requires a strong educational foundation, both in the classroom and in clinical practice. But even once you have a degree in hand and become licensed, the learning never stops. Both nursing practice and the demands of the healthcare industry as a whole tend to change and evolve. In the last ten years, we’ve been in a period of rapid change, driven by healthcare reforms, the need to contain costs, an aging population with high rates of multiple chronic conditions, and other trends. Nurses have taken on more responsibilities and are being asked to help with discharge planning and preventing hospital-acquired infections. Technology is also becoming more complex and more ubiquitous.

Most state nursing boards require nurses to participate in continuing education every two to three years, as a condition of holding a valid nursing license and as a way to keep up with industry changes. The ANA defines continuing nursing education as “systematic professional learning experiences designed to augment the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of nurses, and therefore enrich nurses’ contributions to quality healthcare and to their pursuit of professional career goals.” Additionally, you may find yourself in a position where your employer asks you to complete certain training programs or certifications, either in conjunction with a nursing specialty or a bid for Magnet status. Specialties like ICU, CCU, NICU, etc. have specific continuing ed requirements in many states. In general, one Continuing Education Unit (CEU) is equal to ten hours of instruction.

You should know what specific requirements, if any, your state requires for continuing education. You can check online. For example, New York state requires all nurses to complete CEUs on infection control and identifying child abuse as part of their required hours, while Michigan requires coursework on pain management. Often you can choose the topics for the remainder of your CE credits. Choose wisely! You can use CEs as a way to learn more about a nursing specialty you’re interested in before making a career change, keeping current on nursing technologies, or acquiring knowledge in an area like population health so you can contribute to your employer’s quality initiatives.

Robert Middleton, MSN, MBA, RN, NE-BC, CENP, Vice President Patient Care Services/CNO for Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center (GCRMC) explains how they support their nurses.

GCRMC supports the on-going learning of our staff to ensure they are as knowledgeable as possible for the community we serve. To that end, we provide staff with access to tools, like CE Direct, to provide them countless opportunities for CE credits. Since creating our relationship with CE Direct in January 2016, our nursing and clinical staff have completed over 6,300 CE credit hours of education.  

It’s highly likely that, as a nurse, you are quite naturally a lifelong learner. A 2012 study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that nurses are highly inspired to seek more education, motivated both by personal growth and professional development. The recent focus on evidence-based nursing practice (EBNP) has also given nurses a reason to expand their knowledge and elevate the level of patient care they provide. If you’re motivated above and beyond state CNE requirements, consider earning another degree related to nursing. Today’s flexible, online nursing programs are designed with working professionals in mind.

An online RN to BSN program can help you develop critical thinking skills and improve existing communication skills. It can open minds to new ideas and new models of care – resulting in the highest possible standard of patient care that you’re able to provide. Perhaps this is why such a large body of research has linked BSN-prepared nurses with better patient outcomes.

Yet, as healthcare grows complex, many nurses are deciding to focus their efforts on a particular area of nursing. Consider an online RN to BSN/MSN degree program to be the critical first step toward any career specialty. There are many benefits to specializing – including increased respect and recognition, greater job security, enhanced career satisfaction, and increased salary potential. Nurses who have their eye on a particular nursing specialty will need a plethora of new knowledge, as well as skills in strategizing, forming collaborative relationships, and taking a multi-dimensional approach to problem-solving. American Sentinel University offers accredited, online MSN degree programs with focused coursework that helps prepare nurses for a career in nursing education, nursing informatics, and nursing management and organizational leadership.