Becoming a Nurse: Continuing Education
The survival rate from childhood leukemia (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) has increased from less than 30 percent in 1970 to approximately 80 percent, and nurses now face the challenges of managing the long-term consequences faced by leukemia survivors. Healthcare continuously evolves. Therefore, nurses need to keep up-to-date with the changes. One of the ways to do this is with continuing education.
Continuing education is typically defined by state boards of nursing as "programs beyond the basic preparation that are designed to promote and enrich knowledge, improve skills, and develop attitudes for the enhancement of nursing practice, thus improving health care to the public." Several state boards of nursing mandate continuing education for license renewal, and other state boards of nursing plan to do this in the future.
Mandatory Continuing Education
Mandatory continuing education exists to require evidence that nurses maintain and update the nursing knowledge and skills needed to make competent decisions and judgments for nursing practice, education, administration, and/or research. As previous noted, many state boards of nursing require that nurses take mandatory courses to maintain their nursing license. Most of these boards specify a number of required hours, typically between 10 and 30, to be completed during each two- or three-year licensure cycle. Some require specific courses, such as medication error reduction, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), child abuse, elder abuse, HIV/AIDS, healthcare directives, bioterrorism, and end-of-life care. Some states have specific requirements for advanced practice nurses, especially in the area of pharmacology.
For those contract hours not specified, nurses are free to choose their own topics, as long as they pertain to nursing. Many nurses choose topics relevant to their specialty area, such as medical-surgical nursing, pediatrics, or women's health, while others choose role-specific topics, including administration and case management. Nurses may study practice related concepts, such as pharmacology, risk management, or legal issues. Nurses can also choose areas they wish to explore for a career change. For example, a critical care nurse may study community nursing to consider a career move to home health.
While you would have a wide variety of options to choose from to meet your state requirements, you still have to abide by your state's regulations. All insist that the continuing education courses relate to nursing practice, such as:
- direct patient care
- nursing specialty areas
- nursing management, supervision, and/or administration
- legal issues
- ethical issues
- nursing education
- quality management and improvement
- nursing theory
- nursing research
- therapeutic communications
- death and dying
- clinical technology and procedures
Most state boards of nursing approve continuing education activities sponsored by:
- approved professional nursing education programs
- accredited hospital and health care facilities
- national nursing, medical, osteopathic, and other health care professional organizations, as well as their state and regional affiliates
- federal and state agencies
- state boards of nursing in states other than the nurse's state of residency
Many states disallow certain types of courses, such as self-improvement, change in attitude, financial gain, courses designed for lay persons, BLS (Basic Life Support), mandatory annual education on facility-specific policies, and employment orientation programs. You may take these courses for your own satisfaction; however, you can't use them toward meeting your mandatory requirements.
Most states require nurses to maintain records of their continuing education courses for approximately five years. Nurses are not required to submit proof of their hours when they apply for license renewal; however, they are required to attest to the fact that they completed them. Nurses may be subject to disciplinary action if they wrongly claim to have completed the required continuing education, and states randomly select nurses for audits.
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