All Nurses are Required to Complete Continuing Education Courses
CE Tied to Professional Improvement
Continuing education among professional nurses is a matter most attached to licensure. RN and LPN licenses may not be renewed until nurses have proven a certain number of CE hours and/or approved coursework as mandated by a state agency. Professional nursing credentials issued within particular specialties also may not be renewed until candidates prove a certain number of CEs.
State-based Nursing CE Requirements
LPNs and RNs are required as part of their licensure agreement to maintain professional competence. Initial licensure exams—NCLEX and the NCLEX-PN—prove the first two years of competent nursing skills. But how are nurses required to prove competency beyond their initial exams? State Boards of Nursing each have developed clear statewide regulations regarding RN and LPN continuing education for license renewal. The intended goal of CE is to make sure that nurses consistently pursue CE units that teach them more than what they already know or what they would be required to know for an initial nurse’s license. In other words professional nurses are made responsible for educational improvement.
Each state’s acceptable forms of CE may differ, for example:
- The Texas Board of Nurse Examiners has defined two types of acceptable CE: Level II and I. Nurses must have 20 hours of continuing education credits in two year intervals, or congruent with license renewal. Level I courses are formally approved by a nursing credentialing board and Level II courses are approved by the TBNE.
- North Carolina Board of Nursing allows for a more self-directed approach to competency. The NC-BON’s Learning Plan is designed so that RNs and LPNs may choose from an assortment of acceptable CE options: they may choose a structured 30 hours of continuing education, design their own approved project, or arrange a combination of the two approaches.
- California Board of Registered Nursing requires 30 hours of approved continuing education courses. This is every two years, and in conjunction with license renewal. The CBRN keeps a list of CE providers that regularly offer acceptable CE courses.
The CE Requirements Attached to Specialty Credentials
Specialized certifications such as Certified Emergency Nurse, Certified Registered Nurse of Anesthesia, and Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse are awarded by nationally recognized agencies as a means to indicate a level of professional nursing proficiency in a particular specialty. While RNs and LPNs are required to complete CEUs for general licensure, the same is true of each specialty license, for example:
- A Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) is required to renew his or her license at the end of four years. The Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing requires that recertifying nurses retake the CEN exam, the online test, or prove they’ve completed 100 hours of approved CEUs.
- A Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse (CNRN) must have completed 75 CE hours and have worked a minimum of 4100 hours to recertify. He or she may opt to recertify with either an exam or via CE credits. The American Association of Neuroscience Nurses posts a database of acceptable CE journal articles, each equivalent to one CE hour. After nurses read an article they logon and take a short online quiz that proves they’ve read and understood the material. CEs may also be won by writing and publishing journal articles, working on an AANN association development committee, and via online courses approved by the organization.
Online Learning Environments Prove Beneficial
Online learning environments have helped speed up and make more convenient the process of continuing education. Depending on the type of specialty or the state board of nursing, a large chunk of course work may be accessible to nurses through online environments. This often means professionals with full-time jobs and families may study on their own time and from home.
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