10 Nursing CE Secrets to Maintaining Your License

Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN - 03/20/19

One thing that is guaranteed about a career in nursing is that you will never stop learning. There is something new to be learned almost every day on the job, and through in-services, webinars, seminars and required continuing education for nurses. Most things do not stay the same in the healthcare field as new treatments and medications as well as diagnostics arise from research and technology advances. Nurses will always have to keep up with changes, trends and new information, in order to provide the best practice, quality patient care. Maintaining and renewing nursing licenses is key to ensuring nurses have the skills, knowledge base and tools to best meet patient needs and produce improved outcomes.

1. Know Where to Find Licensing Requirements 

One way of making certain nurses stay updated is through mandatory continuing education courses. It is the nurse’s responsibility to locate and stay up to date with any re-licensure requirements from the State Board of Nursing where the nurse practices. Currently, 39 states, Washington DC, and all US Territories require some form of continuing education for relicensure. This can change at anytime based on state legislation. Nurses are expected to know what their State BON requires. Nurses are advised to subscribe to newsletters or follow their State BON on social media in order to stay informed and even participate in advocating for the best for nurses. APRNs and Nurse Practitioners may have additional continuing education requirements to renew and maintain their licenses as outlined by the State BON.

2. Some States Require Continued Employment

In addition to, or in lieu of, continuing education courses, some states require continued employment in order to maintain and renew a nursing license. For instance, Louisiana, Virginia and North Carolina offer options to nurses to use active practice hours (minimum of 640 hours) in lieu of some of their continuing education contact hours.

3. Professional Organizations May Require Additional CEUS

To keep certifications up to date, professional organizations may require specific continuing education units in the accredited area of specialization. These requirements will be outlined on the website for each certifying organization. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is a clearinghouse for information, exams and certifications. Some certifications include APRN or Nurse Practitioner degrees and certifications; other do not.

4. Magnet Facilities May Require Additional Continuing Education

Magnet facilities have been recognized and honored as organizations who truly value nursing talent. They set the bar for standards of patient care and expected outcomes and they encourage nurses to continue their education to help meet those needs.Magnet Recognition means nurses are supported through every stage of their careers with education and development which leads to greater autonomy at the bedside. Patients find they have the very best of care from nurses who well trained and supported at being the best they can be. Magnet facilities will usually have additional requirements for continuing education for their staff beyond what is or isn’t required by the state BON.

5. Nursing License Compact

Nurses who live in one state and work in another or travel nurses for instance will have a multi-state license in one of 34 states that participate in the Nursing License Compact. This type of license can impact the continuing education requirements depending on where the nurse resides permanently and where the nurse currently practices nursing. Specific requirements vary by state.

 6. Some States Require No CEUs

Currently 11 states (Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin) have no ceu requirements, but this number has been on the decline in recent years and is expected to continue to decline as state legislatures continue to seek ways to improve healthcare in their state. Again, nurses are required to know. It is never an acceptable excuse for a nurse to say, “I didn’t know that.”Anything that affects a nurse’s license and practice is available from the state BON and any nurse practicing in that state is required to keep up to date with that information.

7. State Specific CEU

Some states require specific continuing education courses for nurses that are relevant to nursing practice in their state. For instance, Kentucky has 2 one-time requirements for RNs for 3 hours related to domestic violence, and 1.5 hours on pediatric abusive head trauma. Delaware requires 3 contact hours related to substance abuse. In Iowa, any nurses (RN, LPN, or ARPN) who regularly examine, attend, counsel or treat dependent adults or children need 2 contact hours every 5 years related to the identification and reporting of child/dependent adult abuse. These requirements also change periodically according to the needs and trends in nursing and healthcare.

8. Employers with Specific Requirements

As employers strive to meet the challenges in healthcare such as a changing value-based reimbursement system, they may require employees to take specific courses in topics such as how to better educate and assist patients in an effort to reduce readmissions to acute care whether it be from the continuum of care stand point of the acute care, skilled nursing post-acute rehabilitation, or home care agency they are all going to be impacted. Workplace violence, civility in the workplace, bullying, or dealing with impaired employees are other areas which might be considered by employers to improve the individual workplace and strengthen employee loyalties. Stay connected to workplace education opportunities for required ceu courses as well as other offered to enhance and improve nursing practices in the employment setting.

9. Be Aware of Mandatory BSN 

This topic has been on the docket since 1964, but in 2017 the state of New York passed legislation to make it mandatory for nurses to acquire a BSN within 10 years of licensing after graduation from an Associates Nursing program. Several other states are considering similar legislation but have yet to pass it. Hospitals working to earn Magnet status have had to prove that 80% of their nursing workforce will have a BSN by 2020. Despite a continuing shortage of nurses in many areas of the country and a shortage of nurse educators, the pressure is on to make this a reality now. Course work from accredited colleges and universities in nursing related subject matter may be accepted by the State BON for any required ceus. So as nurses work to earn a BSN, they may be able to meet some or all of their ceus for renewal of their license. Ceus cannot be “banked” so any courses have to be taken in the renewal period to be counted.

10. Make Sure it’s Accredited

Any courses taken for continuing education credit must be accredited the same as any course work taken to become a licensed nurse. The ANCC accredits courses as does the individual State BON. Check with the State BON for any questions before beginning any continuing education course. If it’s not accredited, no ceus will be awarded. Always be sure any nursing course is accredited, by whom and for how many ceus. Keep copies of all certificates for the allotted period of time required by the State BON for audit purposes. Provide copies to employers for career path growth opportunities.