Becoming a registered nurse requires years of education and training, but that doesn’t stop once you’ve gotten your nursing licence. Most states also require you to complete Continuing Education Units (or CEUs) to make sure that your knowledge of the field is current. There are all kinds of ways to further your education in the field of nursing, but not all of them will be recognized as accredited continuing education courses by your state. Let’s explore what does and doesn’t count as a CEU.
The course has to be state-approved and accredited
There are all kinds of ways to continue your nursing education, but a lot of them won’t apply towards CEU requirements. First of all, the course has to be approved by the state that issued your nursing license. Second of all, it has to be provided by an accredited organisation. If you’re trying to find CEU courses on your own, these requirements can be tricky to comply with. Fortunately, sites like nursingcecentral.com can take the guesswork out of your CEUs by telling you exactly which ones your state requires in order to maintain your nursing licence.
For example, say you wanted to attend a conference that was spearheaded by leaders in the medical field; the information you’d learn there would be relevant to your job. Even if the people leading the conference had impeccable qualifications, the conference wouldn’t necessarily count towards your continuing education. You could still benefit from what you learned there; it just wouldn’t ‘officially’ count where your CEU requirements were concerned.
Where can you obtain CEUs?
There are plenty of options; CEUs are provided by employers, schools, professional nursing organizations, government agencies, and healthcare organizations like the ANCC. They range in cost from fairly pricey to totally free. If you can’t find one within your budget, just keep looking – it’s out there somewhere. To complete your CEU requirements as cheaply as possible, ask the healthcare facility where you work; they often provide inexpensive or free CEU courses for their employees.
You can also choose between online and in-person CEUs. You could attend a conference workshop or seminar, sign up for a webinar to attend from home, or get a self-paced packet that you can complete independently. There are even some state-approved topics in professional literature that count towards nursing CEUs, as long as you pass the test after studying the content.
Another budget-related tip for CEUs – anything you spend on continuing education to maintain your nursing license may count as a tax deduction, since it’s considered to be professional development.
How many CEUs do nurses need?
This will depend on the state that issued the nursing license. Some states don’t require them at all, but 39 of them do (plus Washington D.C. and US territories). Of the states that do mandate CEUs for nurses, some of them only ask nurses to do it once, while others ask for periodic refresher courses. On top of all that, employers can also require nurses to complete continuing education units.
A few states even specify which content nurses have to cover, such as ethics, substance abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault. As an example, Florida requires 24 contact hours, with two of them pertaining to medication errors, and two of them pertaining to regulations that govern state nursing practices. The specific requirements of each state can get pretty detailed; it sometimes happens that a licensed nurse will start working on their CEUs, only to find that some of the courses they took are redundant or don’t apply.
How are CEUs calculated?
One CEU is equal to 10 contact hours, or 10 hours of instruction/clinical activity. When you’re enrolling in a course, pay attention to how many CEUs you’ll actually earn; not all courses are weighted equally. You might get one CEU from a single course, or half of one from another.
What doesn’t count as a CEU?
Continuing education units may be intended to advance professional development, but ultimately the state gets to decide what counts as the right kind of professional development. Their requirements might seem a little strict, but most of the time they’re just trying to ensure a certain standard of continuing education. Here’s an overview of things that may benefit nurses’ continuing education, but don’t count as CEUs.
- Professional conventions or meetings. No matter what amazing knowledge you get to absorb at these events, they usually lack accreditation or state approval. However, they sometimes sponsor accredited seminars, so they could end up being a connection to some of the CEUs you need.
- Workplace training programs, residencies, or nurse internships. They may be intense learning experiences, but they don’t count as continuing education units. In many cases, they actually focus more on workplace procedures and policies rather than general nursing practice or state regulations. Plus, your managers at work wouldn’t be accredited to provide CEU courses anyway.
- College courses that aren’t relevant to nursing. Nursing licences generally involve taking courses that aren’t directly related to nursing, but CEUs have to be a lot more specific. Even if mathematics or science courses are required for a BSN, MSN, or DNP degree, they wouldn’t count towards a nursing CEU.
- Continuing Medical Education (CME) courses. Medical professionals like doctors and dentists have to take these courses in order to maintain their licenses. Some nurses might benefit from the information covered in CME courses, but they won’t be able to apply those courses to their CEU requirements.
- Advanced lifesaving courses and CPR. These courses are among the basic requirements for all healthcare professionals, but they don’t typically count as CEU courses. Some advanced courses may count, though; you’d have to verify that with the state board.
Completing your nursing CEUs may seem like a complicated task at first, but the key is to find out what you need well before you’re required to actually complete the credits. As long as you have everything planned out with plenty of time to spare, you can stay on track with as little pressure as possible.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.