How Earning Nursing CEs Can Benefit You

Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN - 10/17/17

Continuing education for nurses is a must whether or not it’s required by the state(s) you’re licensed in. Nursing is a knowledge-based profession meaning that nurses practice patient care based on the knowledge they have acquired through education and experience. The better the knowledge, the higher the quality of patient care and consequently patient outcomes.

Reimbursement is now focusing on the quality of care and patient outcomes. Therefore, the knowledge base of the nurse is quite relevant to employers. This trend is growing and gaining strength through evidence of success and not expected to change course. The expectation for entry level nurses to have a BSN by 2020 is a valid probability. Nurses who do not have their BSN by this date will be able to continue to practice, but will have fewer opportunities for advancement or to change jobs without obtaining their degree.

Obtaining the Degree

The first benefit of CEUs for nurses involves being encouraged to work towards the BSN or continuing to an advanced nursing degree. Not all states require CEUs, but those that do, usually allow credit towards CEU requirements for courses taken during the current re-licensure period. Most states give a 2-year period for completion of the CEUs to renew the nursing license.

College courses taken during that time frame can be counted for the CEU requirements. Not all courses count, and you may have acquired many more course credits than you can utilize. They don’t carry forward. Check with your states’ Board of Nursing for specific information. An additional benefit will be an increase in salary commensurate with the new level of education and certification.

Stay Up to Date

Keeping all nurses up to date on advances in diagnostics and treatments as well as techniques is the second benefit of continuing education for nurses. The role of the nurse has expanded in recent years due to a shortage of physicians. Nurses are expected to do most, if not all, of the patient education that was once the physician’s responsibility. Therefore, nurses are expected to have a full understanding of a vast array of topics as well as how to research what they don’t know, and then to impart information to the patient, family members and caregivers in a manner that they can understand and demonstrate understanding.

As an example, lab value ranges and significance have changed over the years. New techniques that are always improving such as in the field of wound care partic­­­ularly in chronic non-healing or hard-to-heal wounds. Doctors rely on nurses to be able to spot symptoms and problems and notify them of critical lab values. They also depend on nurses to recommend wound care procedures that they may have never heard of before. Continuing education courses afford nurses the opportunity to learn and stay up to date.

Evidence-based Care and Quality Improvements

The time of one-size-fits-all health care is long gone. Through evidence-based care we have learned that patient-centered care is far more beneficial and produces better quality care and significantly improved outcomes.  Preventative care is essential to containing rising costs in health care and achieving better outcomes. Nurses are the backbone of the health care industry and carry the burden of providing much more than just bedside nursing and medication administration.

The third benefit of continuing education for nurses involves understanding and utilizing evidence-based knowledge to drive and improve the quality of the patient-centered care they deliver. It has been proven that when patients understand not only what they need to do, but the why and how it will work to benefit them, they have fewer re-hospitalizations and lowered costs associated with their health care as well as improved outcomes.

Respect and Leadership

In every facility or agency there’s always the go-to person. The person who knows, will find out for you, and is always willing to share information to help improve the quality of care and make your job easier. The fourth benefit of nursing CEs is building leadership and respect among colleagues.

Nurses who search out CE topics to expand their horizons and challenge them to learn new things are always the wealth of knowledge we seek out and learn from. They aren’t always the managers, but they are the team leaders who help us all improve our skills, knowledge and techniques. They are the ones who push us to be better nurses and to expect improved outcomes from our patients.

Maintaining Your License

Finally, benefit number 5; staying current with your CE requirements to keep your license current even if you aren’t actively employed at the time. Although you can opt to become inactive for a period and postpone the CEs, it’s highly recommended that you seek to stay up to date and continue to take the required CE courses. You don’t ever want to let your license lapse and be required to take board exams again! 

Life can take unexpected turns and you may find yourself having to return to work. Then you must rush to take your CEUs. Or you might find yourself in a Good Samaritan situation and you’d want to provide the best evidence-based care possible.

Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN is an award-winning author and blogger. She has over 35 years’ experience as a nurse with a focus in home health and hospice. Kathy has written 7 books including The Everything New Nurse Book and Exploring the Home Health Care Experience; Transitioning Your Career Path.