the-importance-of-continuing-education-for-nurses

The Importance of Nursing Continuing Education - Nursing CE

Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN - 10/06/17

Nursing is a lifelong learning process. You never learn everything you need to know in nursing school. However, the most important thing you learn is that if you don’t know something, or have never performed a procedure, you must ask for assistance and, when necessary, supervision.

The field of medicine and healthcare is constantly evolving and improving through advancements in technology and knowledge. Education and other means of communicating this information are vital to evidence based care and positive patient outcomes. Techniques change and understanding the need to know about the changes as well as the reasoning behind the change can make a huge difference in how you practice and the outcomes for your patient. Evidence shows that patients’ mortality rates improve when they are cared for by nurses with higher education such as a BSN. Continuing education courses for nurses, although not a substitute for advanced education, can also affect the quality of care and patient outcomes by providing necessary opportunities to improve practice skills and knowledge. 

Continuing Education for Nurses

Nursing continuing education affords nurses the opportunity to learn and advance their own techniques in safe patient care. An example that still haunts me many years later is working in home healthcare with an LVN. I was supervising her in the field that day and the visit included administering an IM injection. I was horrified to see that the site she chose was the dorsogluteal area.  This site had already been designated unsafe for years due to sciatic nerve damage issues. But she insisted that was what she was taught (many years before) and therefore it was correct and she was going to follow what she had been taught. I had to intervene and counsel her later. She was flabbergasted to think that nursing techniques would ever change! Remembering a particularly painful injection I received as a child made me shudder to think she was badly in need of continuing nursing education to bring her up to speed. And how many more nurses were falling through the cracks?

Nursing CE or CEUs are a popular and effective means of disseminating these changes and advances. Not all states, or countries for that matter, require continuing education for license renewal, but those who don’t may impose other restrictions such as continued employment at a minimal number of hours or shifts; or require specific refresher courses for those returning to the field after being non-active. Some states allow online CE courses for nurses and others may restrict the number of online CE credits and require additional on-site courses.

Additionally, employers may require specific continuing nursing education or nursing specialty certifications necessary for maintaining employment or advancement which they may provide or require attendance at outside venues.

Continuing Education Requirements

Nurses characteristically are passionate about providing quality care, and have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. They thrive on learning something new. Given this information, as a nurse you are required to stay abreast of your state Board of Nursing (BON) requirements for your practice area. To continue working as a nurse, you must conform to these requirements for license renewal at set intervals which is most commonly every 2 years. NursingCE.com provides access to your state BON’s current continuing education requirements for your convenience.

In addition to taking continuing education courses in your area(s) of interest in nursing, many states require specific courses. Some of these course topics include domestic violence, impairment in the workplace, HIV/AIDS, preventing medication errors, recognizing impairment in the workplace, and specific laws and rules in that state regarding the practice of nursing.  Other topics may examine bioterrorism and pain management. As health care issues arise, such as opioid addiction and human trafficking, look for them to become mandated continuing education topics. 

Recertification Does Not Count for CE Credit

Most states do not allow CE credits (or CEUs) for CPR, NRP, PALs and ACLs recertification courses. Some do allow credit for the original certification as this is something not provided in nursing school and is required for initial nursing employment or specialization. Beyond that, these courses are considered required as a refresher and don’t provide any advanced or changed practice skills or knowledge and therefore don’t meet the requirements of continuing education.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) sets the bar for accrediting the highest caliber course content considered ce for nurses. States and educational institutions adopt these rules and can also build on them to design their own nursing ce requirements which includes needs specific to their population. The ANCC decision to no longer accredit these refresher courses prompted most states to follow suit. 

Advanced Nursing Degree Credits Counts

If you want to further your education, nursing CE credit is almost always granted for any courses you take during your relicensure period to achieve an advanced degree in nursing. Non-nursing degrees and courses don’t count. Check with your state BON to determine how the credit is applied and what the specific requirements are – you can find your state's CE requirements and a link to their BON page on your state's NursingCE page. General education courses needed for a BSN do not count; only courses specific to nursing do. Nurses are always encouraged to advance their knowledge and where possible to obtain advanced degrees in nursing.

Through CEUs for nurses, you may be inspired to become a nurse educator. One of the fields where the shortage of nurses affects the nursing profession directly is the shortage of nurse educators. Most schools of nursing require at least an MSN and prefer a PhD in nursing to become a nurse educator. Nurses with a BSN may be able to find employment as a nurse educator in LPN/LVN programs and nurses aid and home health aide programs. 

Continuing education for nurses not only keeps nurses up to date on the latest advances in care and treatment, but it affords nurses an opportunity to explore other areas of nursing such as home health or hospice, wound care, pain management, geriatrics and case management, and a host of other niches. Nursing offers such a vast array of specialties and practice areas, nurses should never burn out. Just keep learning and moving. Explore the profession through continuing education courses for nurses.


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.