There are nearly 3 million registered nurses in the United States. Many people are attracted to the field for a variety of reasons but struggle with some of the hassles of the job. One issue they have to contend with is keeping up with training requirements.
We have talked about the steps that you can take to advance your career as a nurse. However, you also have to properly maintain it by keeping up to date with your license.
No matter what specialty or license they’re going for, nurses have to undergo years of rigorous training. Depending on what state they’re in, though, their education may not stop once they’ve obtained that precious degree. In 39 different states (plus the US territories and Washington DC), they’ll also have to fulfill CEUs, or Continuing Education Units, in order to maintain their nursing licenses.
The purpose of this isn’t just to prove that their head is still in the game; it’s also to ensure that they’re staying on top of current medical developments. These courses can come from state-approved seminars or college courses, or from a platform like Nursing CE Central, which is geared towards nurses who want a straightforward and efficient way to complete their CEU requirements. Of course, if you’re looking for specific CEUs, it’s key to make sure that the courses you’re taking will count towards your CEU requirements.
To get a clearer picture of what CEUs are, first let’s take a look at what they aren’t
There are plenty of ways to learn material that’s related to the vast field of nursing, but many of them won’t count towards your CEU requirements. If you simply start taking courses and assume that they’ll qualify, you could end up wasting time and money on something you don’t actually need. Even if the learning material is from a well-respected source, it must be approved by the state. As such, you won’t have much luck completing your CEUs with the following types of courses:
- Professional conventions – A lot of conventions are spearheaded by reputable leaders, but even the most renowned names in the medical field won’t change anyone’s mind if you’re trying to get a convention approved as a CEU. It may be highly informative and helpful for your continuing education in a general sense, but completing your CEUs does involved jumping through certain hoops; in other words, you don’t get to choose what constitutes “continuing education”.
- Most college courses – Some courses from accredited colleges count as CEUs, but they have to be directly related to nursing. A nursing degree may involve courses in math, science, and other subjects, but a college course has to apply specifically to nursing if it’s going to count as a CEU. There are a lot of great nursing courses worth checking out, as we discussed here.
- Advanced lifesaving or CPR courses – They’re part of standard training for nurses, but they won’t generally count towards CEU requirements. The exception would be for some advanced course in certain states; that would be something to verify with the state board.
- Internships, residencies, or training programs – These don’t count as CEUs for several reasons. For one thing, the people leading the programs are usually managers or admins, not trained teachers. For another, these types of “courses” tend to focus on workplace-related policies and procedures instead of state regulations, much less general nursing practice.
- CME (Continuing Medical Education) courses – Think of these as CEUs for doctors, dentists, and other medical professionals. They’d probably be educational for nurses, but they aren’t relevant enough to nursing practice to count as CEUs.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about how you can make sure you’re fulfilling your CEU requirements
For most nurses, CEUs have to be crammed into an already busy schedule – and they’re often completed just before the deadline. If you’re going to spend all that time taking these courses, plus you don’t have any extra time to pick up additional courses, you’ll want to make sure that you’re using your efforts wisely. You have to follow the right tips when getting CEU as a nurse .
The primary qualification to look for is that the course has been approved by the state in which you’re registered as a nurse. That’s the main thing to get out of the way, but you can’t necessarily take a bunch of state-approved courses and expect them all to be accepted. Some states have additional requirements, so you’ll want to check up on those as well. For example, Florida requires registered nurses to apply two of their 24 contact hours to regulations pertaining to state nursing practices, and two of them to preventing medication errors.
Some states get fairly detailed in their CEU requirements, so this could end up being the homework before the homework. Your state might ask you to take specific courses that cover topics like substance abuse, sexual assault, ethics, or domestic violence. If you don’t look into the state’s regulations beforehand, you could end up taking CEUs that won’t count towards the ones you need. And unfortunately, redundant CEUs can’t be rolled forward; if they don’t count, they don’t count.
CEU requirements can also get a bit hairy for nurses who are moving to a different state. It isn’t too common, but some nurses move for a new job, only to discover that their new state of residence (and nursing registration) has additional CEU requirements – and that they only have a matter of weeks to complete them. Again, researching the state’s CEU requirements is key if you don’t want to be unpleasantly surprised.
How many CEUs will you need to take?
This will depend on the state you’re practicing in. You may only need a couple at some point after getting your nursing license, or you could need several at periodic intervals. You may see mentions of “contact hours” in the context of CEUs, and some people use them interchangeably. This is actually technically incorrect; one CEU is equivalent to 10 contact hours.
Where can you take CEUs?
The good news is that CEUs are pretty widely available. You can obtain them from schools, government agencies, healthcare organizations like the ANCC, employers, and professional nursing organizations (among others). Some of them are pretty expensive, while others won’t cost you a dime. A good starting point is to ask your employer what they offer; many healthcare facilities offer inexpensive or free CEUs for employees.
Before you can fulfill your CEU requirements, you have to figure out what the requirements are. Fortunately, as long as you research the subject before signing up for anything, you can stay on the right track.