Any working RN knows he or she is required to regularly engage in some level of extra-curricular study that helps them stay up to par with skills, learn skills they will need for their job or strengthen skills with which they are already armed. This is called continuing education, or CE.
Each state board of nursing mandates its own CE requirements for both RNs and LPNs. Therefore the requirements vary, in some cases significantly. For example, about half of all states have no CE requirement, while the others expect RNs to complete 15 to 30 “contact hours” with various stipulations. You may be expected to only earn CEUs with specific CE courses, or you may be eligible to earn CE credit for delivering nursing education training, writing a nursing article for publication, taking a non-degree nursing course and other innovative options.
Self-study courses are popular and ultimately provide convenience and flexible options for study.
Work-specific in-service training is common for nurses that hold permanent hospital jobs. You could get most of your CEUs from sources your nurse manager and administrative staff recommends or requires.
Non-degree nursing courses that you might take in a college that strengthen your area of specialization without enrolling in a full-fledged degree. Always check with your board of nursing on possible CE credit.
Closely related courses in which you may enroll. For example, you could opt to take a nursing informatics class that could also qualify you for CE credits according to some state board stipulations.
Required CEs are those classes or certifications your state nursing board has made mandatory on a rolling basis. For example, the Florida nursing board requires CEUs in HIV, Prevention of Medical Errors, and Domestic Violence besides other “elective” CEUs.
Re-certifications relevant to your job such as BLS or CPR may be used in some cases to cover some part of your required CEs. Again this depends upon your specific state requirement.
Many sources claim to provide nursing CEUs, some advertise dozens of free nursing CEU self-study courses online and others sell bundles of CE courses for a small subscription price. Make certain that the CEU provider you use is approved by your board of nursing or a nursing accredited body.
Should your state nursing board discover that you’ve missed meeting CEU requirements it could issue you a directive that requires you meet that requirement by a specific date or suffer licensure suspension and/or fees. Theoretically a state nursing board has the power to suspend a nurse’s license for missed or neglected CEUs.