What is continuing education in nursing?It consists of planned learning experiences beyond a basic nursing educational program. These experiences are designed to promote the development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes for the enhancement of nursing practice, thus improving health care to the public, (Ofosu, 1993).Why is continuing education necessary for nurses?Continuing education is necessary for nurses to perform competently, and respond positively to advanced medical, and technological changes in this age of rapid change, and to prevent obsolescence. It is needed to meet the expressed needs or interests of nurses to enable them to provide current and ultimately safe and effective patient care, (Calder, 1986).Challenges for nurses and continuing education.1. Nurses are the largest group in the health care system (Lowson, 1986). They are the only group of health care providers required to provide the same level of service in hospitals, seven days per week for 365 days per year (Ofosu, 1993). They work close to the patients and are expected to maintain professional competence and expertise.2. Advances in medical technology have resulted in people living longer and the need for continuing education is evident for nurses.3. Nurses are predominately female, and there is ongoing conflict between childbearing and child rearing and the special needs of the nursing profession. The special needs are: responsibility, skills demanded, stress of the work, irregularity of the hours, and consequent intrusions on private life.What does the research say about continuing education in nursing?Nurses graduate from both the college (96%) and university (4%) system. They have different academic backgrounds but perform similar tasks at the bedside. the monopoly of degree granting programs for nurses will likely remain in Ontario with the universities. Planned joint college/university programs so that the university controls standards of admission, programming, evaluation and graduation, is recommended by educational planners for the year 2000, (Skolnik, 1990).Factors affecting nurses as women.(a) Changing patterns in employment of women 70% of female nurses reported to be married and expect to combine marriage and a career. Temporary leave for childbearing and child rearing are expected. The nurses’ return to work can be an easier transition if there are planned educational activities in place, (Ofosu, 1993).1. Shifts in age composition (Ofosu, 1993)The proportion of the population aged 65 and over is on the increase. Many nurses needcontinuing education in geriatric nursing to effectively care for these patients.2. Maternal and infant mortalityNew knowledge and advances in technology have resulted in better means of caring for the prematurely born and high risk infant. Nurses play a significant role in prevention as well as in caring for those at risk. Increased knowledge regarding genetics and new family planning methods suggest the ongoing need for continuing education for nurses.3. Population MobilitySince World War II, the migration of many people from one part of the country or the world to another has increased. This population mobility when demonstrated in the health care system results in a high turnover of nurses. The health Care system therefore has been forced to provide orientation, and other forms of continuing education for employees with a variety of education and experiential backgrounds. Expectations of the nursing professionUnder the auspices of the College of Nurses of Ontario, the primary expectation of nurses is the provision of competent nursing care to the public. Some continuing education is provided for nurses by the College and by the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario. The term “Registered” in the title signifies to the public that the individual is qualified and has met the minimum standards of the nursing profession.Barriers to nurses’ continuing education73% of hospital nurses cited shift work as the major barrier to their continuing education. Shift work is a necessary inconvenience for nurses because of the care that the patients require on a 24 hour basis. The cost was cited by 50% of nurses as a deterrent to continuing education. 18% of the nurses reported having to travel up to one hour by public transportation to be able to participate in continuing educational activities, (Ofosu, 1993).Incentives for nurses continuing education1. 55% of nurses reported that flexible hours at work was their major incentive for participating in continuing education.2. Another 55% cited an increase in salary upon completion of a degree as their incentive to participate in university programs.3. 54% of nurses cited refundable fees upon completion of courses, (Ofosu, 1993).Career growth and specializationContinuing education isn’t just another box you need to check to keep your job—it’s also a chance to become a better nurse, gain experience in a specialized area, and strengthen your potential job prospects in the future.Earning a certification in a specialty area could help increase your knowledge and confidence, and better position you for continued advancement. Many healthcare organizations and magnet-recognized hospitals prefer to hire certified nurses to better market their services and boost the facility’s perception in the eyes of the public. You may choose to become certified in specialty areas such as:• Medical-surgical• Neonatal• Critical care• Gerontology• Pediatrics• Ambulatory care• Cardiac vascular nursing• Informatics• Nurse executive• Pain management• Psychiatric mental healthBecause the field of nursing is constantly changing, continuing education is a requirement for maintaining these types of nursing certifications. For example, to be certified as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) with the ANCC, you must complete 75 contact hours every 5 years. To be eligible for a CCRN specialty certification with the AACN, you must complete 100 hours of continuing education every 3 years.Specialty certifications often require a relatively high bar for continuing education requirements for nurses. As a result, those who maintain these credentials are often viewed as motivated and dedicated professionals who stay up-to-date on the latest research and trends.What Kinds of Nurses Have CNE Requirements?Depending on the state, RNs, LPNs, and NPs might all need to maintain certain CE requirements. Some states have the same requirements for all 3, while others designate different amounts of nursing CEUs for each. For instance, Illinois requires RNs and LPNs to complete 20 contact hours every 2 years, while NPs must complete 50 hours every 2 years. However, these requirements vary widely by state.What Kind of Courses Can I Take?The type of course you can take depends on what requirements you need to meet:State licensure: Double check with your state board of nursing for more information on what types of courses are needed to keep your nursing license.Specialty certifications: The nursing association that offers the specialty certification you need will provide information on which types of activities and courses apply for renewal.Employer: Your employer may approve specific types of nursing continuing education courses, or they may even reimburse you for courses as part of your ongoing training.In addition, the ANCC is another helpful resource to consider when choosing courses. The ANCC accredits nursing continuing education providers and is recognized by all state boards of nursing. You can find a list of ANCC-accredited providers of continuing education by state on the ANCC website.Here are a few examples of CE courses to give you an idea of the range available:Acute and Chronic Pain Assessment and Management: Covers the latest research and techniques for treating different types of pain and addiction issues, including common myths.Acute Pancreatitis: Outlines important signs, symptoms, and risk factors for this difficult-to-diagnose condition and compares the different treatment options that are now available.Bipolar Disorder: Teaches nurses how to recognizes the signs of bipolar disorder, a lifelong brain disease which often goes undiagnosed and untreated.Forensic Evidence Collection for Nurses: Trains nurses to provide healthcare to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and elder abuse and gather the documentation needed to prosecute offenders.Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Explains the best practices for diagnosing, treating, and managing IBD, a debilitating and sometimes deadly disease effecting 1.8 million adults in the U.S. HIV Case Studies: Compares and contrasts the various stages of HIV, identifies treatment options, and explains common complications.Keep in mind that some states require you to take specific courses as part of your continuing education. For example, Washington requires an HIV class and New York requires a course on identifying and reporting child abuse.In addition to CE requirements, you may be required to become certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic life support, or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) to maintain your nursing license. However, these types of certifications do not always count toward your CEUs and may be considered in-service training.ConclusionContinuing education is absolutely essential for nurses to provide safe, competent care to patients. It is also necessary to be able to respond positively to advanced medical and technological changes in this age of rapid and constant change as well to prevent professional obsolescence.