Tips for Managing Your Nursing CEUs
One of the most important aspects of being a nurse is maintaining your license. To keep that nursing license, you’ve got to prove that you’re still current with your nursing knowledge. You do this by completing a certain amount of nursing continuing education credits over time. So, how does one go about doing that?
Continuing education credits for nurses: state requirements
While many are similar, the way each state manages this process is different. Your State Board of Nursing (or as many call it, the BON) is who is in charge of this. They decide how often nursing licenses need to be renewed, how many credits are required for renewal, as well as how to do this. Therefore, the best place to to find out this information from their website directly.
Let’s go through an example. If I lived in North Carolina, I’d head over to the North Carolina BON website. I’d click on Licensure/Listing, and then Renewal Requirements. There they tell me all of the information I must have to successfully renew my license.
Also, one important thing to remember is that some states don’t require continuing education proof for your very first renewal, but will for all subsequent renewals. Again, I cannot stress to you the importance of being familiar with your specific state BON and their unique requirements.
When to provide proof
This process differs state to state. You can find your state's requirements by finding your state's page on NursingCE.com. Some states, like Alabama, require you to submit all 24 credits directly to a website to be able to renew your license. North Carolina is one of the states that does not require you to provide proof. Rather, they randomly audit individuals afterwards, and only those who are audited must provide proof of these credits.
Also, in addition to continuing education credits, some states have a requirement for worked practice hours as well. Many will either wave or decrease the number of practice hours if the nurse holds a national certification.
How to pick and obtain your nursing continuing education credits
The first thing to consider is if your state BON wants a certain amount of credits within a certain topic or category. For example, Florida requires that 2 of the required 24 credits be related to medication errors, and 2 on laws and rules that govern the practice of nursing in the state. In Kentucky, there is a one-time requirement of the completion of 3 hours related to domestic abuse. And in Ohio, for each renewal the applicant must complete at least 1 hour related to the Ohio Nurse State Practice Act.
After you’ve considered any topic-requirements, you must select the additional topics. I’d recommend sticking to topics that are relevant to your patient population and practice. Topics related to your state’s practice act, laws, and rules, will always be relevant to your practice, regardless of the area you’re working in. Nursing continuing education credits get pretty specific; from ABG interpretation, to medication errors, and even palliative care. Pick what would benefit you and the unique care that you provide to maximize their benefit.
Once you’ve outlined any required topics and pick the remaining, now you have to obtain them! Some nurses like to travel to various nursing conferences, while others like to complete them online or on paper. The fastest and easiest way to do this is online, especially if you’re in a time-crunch.
I’ve gone to many conferences and really enjoy getting credits that way, but you really have to be mapping out requirements ahead of time. It’s also not always practical to get all of the credits from one conference, and if you’re looking to get all of your credits this way, it can get pretty pricey. The most I’ve personally received from a conference was 17. I’ve seen some where if you maxed out every session humanly possible, you could get as many as 35+ but that can be pretty tough to do. However, regardless of the time and expense, nursing conferences are a wonderful experience!
Online credits are a great way to fill in the gaps left by conference attendance or to simply get all of them, especially if you pay a one-time fee for an unlimited number (which you can do with NursingCE.com). You may decide to try to get all at a conference, all online, or a mixture of both.
How to keep track
The last step of this process is to simply keep track. Please do not make the mistake of doing the work to obtain them, printing them off and tossing them into a pile to be forever lost when you suddenly need them a year and a half later.
If you haven’t already, get a file folder (ideally placed in a filing cabinet!) and label it “Nursing CEU’s”. As you acquire hours, print them off and toss them in there immediately. You’ll always know where they are, especially when the time comes to renew your license.
Depending on where you obtain your credits, some enable you to save the certificate within their system so you only need to print when and if you must provide proof. With some states only requiring proof if you’re audited, this would save quite a bit of toner and paper over time!
First, familiarize yourself with your state BON and their requirements for continuing education for Nurses. Next, find out how you must provide proof. Then, find out if your state requires any specific topics to be covered. Then, pick your topics and earn your credits! Finally, make sure you’re keeping track of them in an organized fashion. If you’re doing this, when the time comes to renew, the most painful part will be paying renewal fees and not scrambling to take all of your credits at the last minute!
Kati Kleber BSN RN CCRN, is a registered nurse who lives in Champaign, Illinois. She is a published author, podcast host, and national speaker on nursing trends. Kati was recognized by the Charlotte Business Journal as 2015 Nurse of the Year and was a recipient of the Great 100 Nurses of North Carolina award. Kati has also been featured across a number of media outlets, including The Dr. Oz Show, U.S. News, The TODAY Show, and many more. Kati is currently pursuing her Masters of Science in Nursing Education.