When it comes to nursing, education does not stop when you take your last exam or complete the last challenging clinical rotation. Scrubs may have replaced the textbooks, but for as long as you’re an RN, regardless of your nursing level or years of experience, there will always be a way to become better. You may be out of school but as a nurse, you’ll never be out of things to learn.
That’s why one of the pillars of the nursing profession is lifelong learning. And Continuing Education (CE) – a crucial part of it – is an important brick strengthening the foundation of your nursing skill, knowledge, and expertise.
In this article, we will tackle the concept of nursing continuing education. What exactly does it imply, who benefits from it, and why is it essential? Read on to find out.
What Is Nursing Continuing Education?
Continuing education refers to the need to periodically brush up one’s knowledge as a means of always improving and staying on top of the game. There are three main acronyms you will often come across in discussions about continuing education: CE, CNE, and CEUS.
CE is Continuing Education. Some form of this is required by most professions which involve getting a license.
CNE stands for Continuing Nursing Education and is attributed to the field of nursing specifically.
CEUs is the abbreviation for Continuing Education Units (or Continuing Education Credits) and they serve as a reflection of the amount of time invested in education courses or other approved activities, such as conferences or seminars. One CEU is the equivalent of 10 hours of instruction.
Most states make it mandatory for RNs to engage in some type of continuing education periodically – either annually, biennially or every three years. If the state in which you practice doesn’t require it, it doesn’t mean you’re automatically off the hook. Proof of continued competence may be asked by your employer, especially in the case of Magnet hospitals, or it may be a condition for pursuing certain nursing specialties. Whether it’s the state, your employer or your own ambitions requiring you to continue your education, you will want to keep your education up to date and get those necessary credits.
Before you write it off as a tedious and unnecessary chore, it’s worth taking a moment to analyze the actual importance of continuing education for nurses.
Why Is Nursing Continuing Education Important?
Nursing Continuing Education greatly benefits every link in the healthcare chain, starting with the RNs themselves and ending with the employers and and the patients. CNE impacts competency and it enhances the nurses’ professional development. All of this translates into higher quality of care which is the backbone of our medical system. In the following section let’s explore the advantages of lifelong nursing learning.
Reasons to Pursue Continuing Education as a Registered Nurse
- Might be a requirement in your state.
Completing a certain number of hours of continuing education annually can help you keep your nursing license
- Might contribute to pay raises.
It is not uncommon for employers to assess a nurse’s education during evaluations. While a certain number of continuing education hours might be a condition of employment, exceeding that number and going the extra mile will show your dedication and commitment to the job and in the end, it might be the defining factor when asking for a raise or a promotion.
- Stay up-to-date in your nursing practice.
In the constantly changing, improving, and developing nursing field staying current with the new developments and continuously tweaking their knowledge and skills is an essential quality of a nurse. The more knowledgeable you are, the better nurse you’ll be and you’ll be of greater help to your patients. By continuing your education you grow and improve as an RN and everyone benefits from it – you as a professional, the institution that hired you, the patients you care for, their families, and the healthcare system as a whole.
- Develop new skills
Procedures change, new drugs come into play and there are new ways to administer them safely. A Registered Nurse who doesn’t possess the latest skills may not be able to offer the highest quality of care to their patients.
- The vast diversity of Continuing Education courses.
If being bored with the same basic nursing material was one of your concerns about the value of CE, worry no more. There are many courses to choose from and you have the freedom to choose the ones you have a genuine interest in. Do you want to advance your education in nursing leadership, communication, or patient safety? Are you more interested in gaining clinical knowledge in specialties such as cardiology, neonatal care, medical-surgical, or pediatrics? Do you want to recapitulate and improve your information on body systems, such as the respiratory, digestive, nervous, or cardiovascular systems? There are continuing education modules on each of these that you can take. There are so many options at your fingertips. You can do it not only for the credits but also for the pleasure of learning.
- Can renew interest in nursing practice.
As amazing and rewarding as a career in nursing is, it’s not unheard of for RNs to deal with decreasing job satisfaction and burnout. After all, it’s not an easy job, and the physical and emotional stresses of the career can take their toll on a nurse’s satisfaction with their practice. Gaining new knowledge and reinforcing their pre-existing skills is a great way for a nurse to rediscover their love for the profession. Afterall, what can be more refreshing than excelling at something?
- Become a trusted source for information among your peers.
By now, it’s probably pretty clear that pursuing Continuing Education credits is a fantastic way to learn more and become better at your craft. And with great knowledge comes great recognition from your fellow nurses. Being always on top of your game is a great way to gain the reputation of a trusted source in your workplace – a role model to other nurses who are forging their own path in this world. It’s a tremendous responsibility to be asked for advice and to be perceived as the go-to source of nursing information. It will not only feel good for you as a professional but will also boost your standing within the workplace.
What Are the Benefits of Continuing Nursing Education From your Employer’s Standpoint?
Nursing education is invaluable for nurses, but it is also important for employers. This is how lifelong learning in nursing benefits employers in the healthcare industry.
- Strengthens loyalty and increases job satisfaction of the nursing workforce.
When employers encourage their RNs’ pursuit of continuing education, and when they contribute by taking (at least part of) the financial load off the nurses’ shoulders, their nurses’ expertise and loyalty grow. People want to work in an environment where they feel supported and motivated to become better. Providing continuing education for your employees is a great way to set the entire organization up for success. Nurses will generally come in to work happier and more satisfied knowing that they’re coming into a stimulating workplace.
- Higher quality of care and more prestige for the medical institution
In the world of healthcare services, the standing of any medical institution is only as high as the quality of care being delivered within the walls of the establishment. It’s no surprise that a better prepared, more educated nursing workforce is directly linked to better patient outcomes, fewer medical errors, and lower mortality rates. The more involved with lifelong learning nurses are, the higher quality of care they are able to provide. By extension, the institution also wins.
- Invest now for financial benefits later
According to a 2020 report conducted by the nursing organization Nurse.com, over 40% of RNs say that their employers have either paid or reimbursed their continuing education studies. As an employer, it may seem like a big investment to financially assist your employees with their learning, but it pays for itself. First off, it’s more affordable to enhance the skills of your current workforce compared to how much it would cost to take it from zero. It will make your turnover rates lower and maybe most importantly of all, you will increase your staff’s expertise and knowledge. Better prepared staff, higher quality of care, increased patient satisfaction, greater return rates. You do reap as you sow.
Continuing Education Requirements
Although mostly you are allowed to take continuing education classes in areas of nursing which prompt your interest, it is also not unheard of for states or medical institutions to require specific courses. Some of the most popular in this category are CE courses on domestic violence, impairment in the workplace, preventing medical errors, or pain management.
As a general rule, most states don’t permit CPR, PALs, and ACLs recertification courses to count towards CE credits. The reasoning behind this is the fact that these recertification courses are rather a refresher of your knowledge and not necessarily an improvement of their skills and expertise. The purpose of Continuing education courses is to advance a Registered Nurse’s professional know-how.
If, however, you aim to advance your nursing degree, there’s a high probability that you will be able to get CE credit for the classes taken in the process of getting a higher degree in nursing. General Education courses will not count towards CE credit, but nursing-specific courses will. This rule is here to encourage RNs to pursue advanced nursing degrees.
Nursing Lifelong Learning: Are You Ready to Embark on This Journey?
Even after you have obtained your nursing licensure, you still have the responsibility to keep on learning, keep on advancing, and continue educating yourself. In the nursing profession you have to always be up to date with the latest procedures, advancements, and research.
It’s your skills and knowledge that may be the difference between life and death in a critical moment. When you commit yourself to a nursing career, you must promise yourself to never stop learning. Learning to be a better nurse is indeed a lifelong process and continuing education is a great foundation on which to build your nursing career.
Never stop learning! Now is the time to pursue an advanced nursing degree.
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