Nursing Continuing Education Requirements: What to Know

Every nurse understands that the education necessary to become a licensed professional is significant. Nurses may be licensed with a variety of degrees, and many have advanced degrees. That educational background is crucial given the importance of specialized skills, critical thinking, and decision-making that will ultimately be part of the job. It’s important to note that education doesn’t stop once a nurse enters the workforce.

Patient care is, of course, at the forefront of most nurses’ minds when they’re on the job. Remarkably, medical knowledge doubles every few months. Staying up to date on the ins and outs of care in a rapidly changing healthcare professional environment means that continuing education requirements for nurses are a necessity.

The Importance of Continuing Education

What is continuing education and why is it important? Put simply, continuing education helps nursing professionals stay up to date on the latest evidence, technologies, and strategies for effective patient care. Medical and nursing organizations want their personnel to be well versed in the state of the art, not only to provide superior care but also to potentially insulate themselves from legal liability.

That’s why many states and healthcare institutions require continuing education for their nursing staff. Continuing education requirements for nurses vary depending on geography and affiliation. Many states mandate some form of continuing education every two to three years, but there is significant variation between states. Even in states that don’t mandate it, hospitals or other organizations may require some official form of continuing education.

As any practitioner knows, healthcare is a diverse field composed of many discrete disciplines. Continuing education requirements for nurses reflect that diversity and may range from the acquisition of skills targeted to general disciplines (OSHA-compliant bloodborne pathogens) to more specific ones (wound care nursing).

Other potential areas of continuing education are more closely associated with social or ethical aspects of healthcare. Nurse practitioners who are likely to see patients remotely, for example, might benefit from a greater understanding of best practices in telehealth and telemedicine. Nurses operating in diverse multicultural environments can better do their job if they undergo training in implicit bias and cultural competence and humility.

Types of Continuing Education

There are different types of continuing education requirements for nurses arising from multiple sources:

  • Annual healthcare employee requirements are derived from institutional needs, with the goal of keeping staff up to date for both professional and legal reasons.
  • State-mandated continuing education is often required for nursing professionals to maintain licensure, but specific requirements vary by state.
  • Professional development of staff for its own sake is a priority of many healthcare organizations, and continuing education courses often play a significant role in such programs.

Continuing Education Formats

When it comes to providing continuing education to healthcare staff, organizations rarely support their nurses financially. Unfortunately, the majority of nurses who are dedicated to continuing education must search for and fund the relevant courses themselves. 

Occasionally, healthcare organizations send advanced staff to academic or industry-focused conferences. Conferences tend to be fairly formal affairs, replete with poster sessions, luncheons, and keynote speakers, all taking place in a conference center or hotel. 

Conferences deliver excellent benefits, allowing healthcare workers to network in person and learn from experts from across a wide array of subdisciplines. Of course, there are also downsides: it’s expensive for nurses to attend conferences if the cost of attendance isn’t supported by their employer, and there are schedule- and logistics-related issues that might arise from healthcare workers missing shifts.

The most effective format for continuing education is to enroll in online courses. Web seminars and classes are a particularly good option for those in the healthcare industry. Such classes offer a great deal of flexibility for busy workers with unusual schedules, especially if content is delivered asynchronously and on demand. Online courses are also a relatively inexpensive solution for healthcare organizations, especially if they’re smaller, local operations.

Some Examples of State Requirements

As we mentioned, different states have different continuing education requirements for nurses. To understand the variation in state requirements for registered nurses (RNs), it’s helpful to look at some examples from across the country. Of course, keep in mind that these requirements are always subject to change.

As we can see, some states have more substantial, or more specific, requirements than others. It is advisable for nurses nationwide to stay informed about current requirements for licensure and renewal from both state nursing boards and institutional affiliations.

Nursing Continuing Education Requirements

It should be clear that continuing education requirements for nurses are a profoundly important, aspect of the healthcare system, even though not everyone looks forward to logging the necessary hours. While it’s time-consuming, nurses benefit from maintaining a proactive attitude in relation to continuing education since it helps them stay motivated and well-informed about new trends, technologies, and care strategies. Excellent nursing staff enhances the care regimen and reputation of hospitals and other organizations, not to mention the profession as a whole.

If you’re looking for excellent continuing education options, #1 Premiere Continuing Education is dedicated to excellence and meaningful education for the betterment of society’s health, welfare, and safety. We provide highly-rated content for state-mandated training for nursing professionals as well as curated courses for professional development. 

Our courses run the gamut from medically-oriented basics to the social, ethical, and legal implications for employees in the healthcare industry. Each of our courses is created by a licensed professional with years of practical experience in the field as well as pedagogical expertise with adult learners.

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