10 Things to Know About Nursing Continuing Education

As healthcare advances, providers and nurses must stay abreast of the latest developments to ensure optimal patient care. Most states recognize this necessity for continual learning by requiring some form of continuing education (CE) in order to renew their nursing license. Comprehending these CE regulations can be confusing; that’s why we’ve collected a detailed list of top 10 questions RNs and LPN/LVNs have about renewal requirements – so you don’t need worry when your time comes!

If you have achieved a graduate degree or work as an APRN, your nursing continuing education requirements may differ from those outlined below.

What Nurses Need to Know About Nursing CEUs

Continuing education is essential for nurses, who must stay on top of the latest developments in the medical field and ensure they provide the best care possible. Nursing CEUs are not only required to maintain professional credentials but also help nurses expand their skills and knowledge. To get started with nursing CEUs, there are a few things nurses should know about requirements, types of courses available, and how to choose the best course for their needs.
Requirements vary depending on individual state boards of nursing; however, most states have similar criteria when it comes to approving continuing education units (CEUs). These include setting limits on the number of hours required per year or biennially, as well as specifying that certain topics must be covered during each program. In many states, a minimum number of contact hours (meaning time spent in an actual classroom-type setting) must be completed each year.
When it comes to choosing which continuing education courses to take, nurses should first consider their specialty area and any areas where they need additional training. Specialties might include gerontology, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology or mental health nursing; depending on the nurse’s area of expertise, different courses may be necessary to fulfill CEU requirements. Each course should offer evidence-based strategies that can then be applied directly in the workplace. It’s important that all courses are approved by their state board of nursing so they can count towards CEUs; this information should be easily available from both online learning providers and brick-and-mortar schools alike.
Finally, it’s important for nurses to remember that taking continuing education courses is a commitment not just to their profession but also to patient safety and quality care. By keeping up with best practices and learning new techniques through these programs, nurses can ensure they remain well-informed and skilled throughout their careers.

1. Differences Between Continuing Education Units, Contact Hours, and Continuing Medical Education

It’s vital to understand the distinction between continuing education units and contact hours, as many state regulations assume completion of required contact hours. The American Nurses Credentialing Center follows suit when it comes to counting credits earned through continued education – though some providers may instead issue CEUs.

  • A contact hour is 50-60 minutes of nursing education.
  • A CEU is equivalent to 10 contact hours.
  • If a course offers one CEU, it provides about 10 hours of instruction.
  • A three-CEU course is a 30-hour course.

Physicians, APRNs, and select nurses can stay up-to-date on the latest developments in their field by taking advantage of courses that provide continuing medical education (CME) hours. Different states have different requirements for CME eligibility – so check local regulations to find out how you can use these educational opportunities to maintain your licensure.

2. Complete CE Requirements Before Your License Expires

Nurses in states that require continuing education must complete their requirements before their nursing licenses can be renewed. In most cases, this means CEUs must be earned every two years; a few states, including Washington and Indiana, require more credits and operate on a three-year cycle.
For example, if your license expires on September 30, 2021, the CEUs you submit for renewal must have been completed between October 1, 2019, and September 29, 2021.

If you complete more than the required number of CEUs in any cycle, you cannot apply them to your next license renewal. Also, if you earned credits before your permanent license was issued, they do not count toward license renewal.

3. Nursing CEU Requirements Vary by State

Every state has different requirements on continuing education for nurses. They can differ in the number of credits and the specific training to be completed. Depending on where you are licensed, expect to complete 12-45 hours of continuing education every 2-3 years.

Some states offer alternatives to completing CEU courses.

    • North Carolina: Allows nurses to count published work as a nursetime spent teaching, or a research project toward their CEU requirements.
    • Alaska: Nurses can earn credit for unpaid volunteer activities.

Other states require classes on specific topics including:

It is your responsibility to determine and follow your state’s rules to renew your license.

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4. Some States Have No CEU Requirements

These states do not require nurses to complete any required continuing education:

    • Colorado
    • Connecticut
    • Indiana
    • Maine
    • Mississippi
    • Missouri
    • Montana
    • South Dakota
    • Vermont
    • Wisconsin

Although these states do not have any CEU requirements, nurses are encouraged to keep their skills up to date. Earning CEUs and taking on extra training on your own can help strengthen your resume and career growth.

5. For Multistate License Holders, CEU Requirements Are Determined By “Home State”

Most U.S. states are part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). These RN compact states allow licensed nurses from one member state to practice in other states on the same license. These are called “multistate licenses.”

A nurses’ “home state” is the state where their license is issued. When your license is up for renewal, be sure to complete the nursing continuing education requirements according to your home state, even if you’re working somewhere else.

For example, a nurse licensed in Maine does not have to meet any CEU requirements for license renewal. If they are working in New Hampshire under the NLC, they are not required to fulfill New Hampshire’s requirement of 30 contact hours every two years.

However, if a nurse moves to a different state and establishes residency, they will need to renew their license in their new home state. Therefore, if that same Maine nurse moves to New Hampshire permanently, they need to get a New Hampshire nursing license and complete the CEU requirements every two years.

6. CE Must Be Relevant to Nursing Practice

To be accepted as a CEU, course content must be approved by your state board of nursing. Some states require specific coursework, but all courses must be relevant to the practice of nursing and accredited by a school, nursing organization, or employer.

Some examples of content that counts as nursing CE include:

Nursing-related college courses taken toward a degree may also count as CEUs, and in some states, volunteer work, research, or teaching can be applied.

7. Not All Nursing Courses Are Accepted as CEUs

Although you may complete certain training or courses to further your career, not all classes can count as CE. For example, renewing your cardiopulmonary resuscitation or basic life support credentials, on-the-job training, and non-nursing-related college courses do not count. Attending a conference or professional meeting will not in itself count for credit, but you might earn CEUs by attending educational or training sessions at the event.

8. Contact Hours Must Be Obtained From Approved Providers

An approved provider must issue CEUs to count toward license renewal. Providers are approved by either your state board of nursing or the ANCC and issued a provider number. Before taking a course, confirm the provider number and that your state will accept the CEUs you earn.

9. Contact Hours for Certification Renewal Can Be Used for Licensure Renewal

If you have a certification issued by the ANCC, such as a pediatric or medical-surgical certification, you need to complete additional nursing continuing education.

However, contact hours completed for certification renewal are applicable toward your state nursing license renewal as well. The ANCC requires nurses to complete a minimum of 75 contact hours in their specialty and at least one of eight additional activities within five years to maintain certification.

10. You Have to Keep Records of Your Continuing Education Units

You are responsible for maintaining detailed records of the CEUs you complete and submit the information to your state. Keep track of the course title, provider name, identification number, the date you completed the course, and the number of CEUs awarded. Keep hard copies or scans of the completion certificates as proof you completed the course.

You can keep track of your CEUs using any method you choose but check with your state nursing board to confirm how long you need to keep records. Several apps, including Nurse Backpack and CertAlert+, can help you track your credits and provide other features, like automatic reminders of expiration dates.

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