Know the ins and outs of continuing education

nursing_signMost state boards of nursing require that nurses have continuing education (CE) credits or hours in order to maintain licensure.  The numbers of these CE credits or hours vary from state to state and it is crucial that the nurse know what his or her state board requires for licensure.

Periodic audits do take place to monitor this.  The audits are randomized and often nurses are chosen more than once in short periods of time.  Many of these state boards of nursing go a step beyond the CE credits and mandate what type of continuing education the nurse must focus on.  One example of this is Oregon; the state board of nursing in Oregon requires that nurses have seven hours of CE on pain management.

In states that do not require CE credits, each board may require other documents such as:

  • Employee evaluations
  • Peer evaluations
  • Self evaluations
  • Attendance files
  • Employer in-service attendance
  • Proof of the number of hours worked (an example is Wyoming; an employee in this state must have proof of 1600 hours worked over the previous 5 years (Medscape, 2011)).  Many states mandate various numbers of hours worked to keep licensure along with CE credits, while other states do not require CE credits if hours worked are met.

As many readers know, obtaining these CE credits can be costly.  With some states being stricter than others about the types of CE credits to be obtained, it is vital to know where to look for CE hours.  The first thing the nurse must do is go to his or her state board as mentioned above to determine if the hours are of a specific type; already mentioned is seven hours on pain for Oregon nurses. Texas prefers the hours be in the field the nurse works (i.e. emergency room nursing).  For Ohio nurses, of the 24 credits required, one must be in Ohio nursing law.

Thankfully for RNs and LPNs, though, most hours or credits aren’t specified.

For a list of state requirements, visit:

So where do we as nurses go to get the continuing education we are required to have?

Advanced Practice Nurses will be locked into their specialty in most states and their certifications will stand for many of their required hours. APN’s must also spend a specified number of CE hours in pharmacology. For this reason an APN’s CE hours/credit requirement are considerably higher than RN’s or LPNs.

For the rest of us, most any quality CE course will do. However, be careful of internet CEs. Please do not just use a search engine looking for “free continuing education credits.”  You are certain to find a plethora of hits on search engines, but make sure that you can trust the web site you go to for the education you are seeking.

Make sure you do your due diligence in checking out the website prior to giving credit card information.  Identity thieves get more creative every day. Even well meaning people making attempts at giving CE credits may not be an accredited body recognized by your nursing board.

Here’s a list of resources that are generally a safe bet for CEs.

  • Nursing journals.
  • Websites belonging to nursing journals.
  • Nursing Symposiums. You’ll have to pay to attend, but many times, you will get as many as 60 CE credits for attending a conference.
  • Vendors that solicit your business in the healthcare facility where you are employed.  Trust me on this; they are so thrilled someone is willingly giving them the time of day in the facility, they are only too glad to spend a few minutes with you.  Ask the vendors if they have an accredited education body that provides CE’s.  Here is a big hint – these should be FREEBIES!!!
  • School (for those of you taking classes). As long as you are in school, your schooling will count as CE credits.
  • Your employer. At a previous employer, our manager sought out entities to bring CEs to the nurses.  Employers can also apply to give CE’s for certain educational in-services.

Good luck, and keep learning.

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