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What Counts As Continuing Education for Nurses?

What Counts As Continuing Education for Nurses?

What Counts As Continuing Education for Nurses?

Nursing and almost all other healthcare professions require continued, lifelong education to maintain licensure and ensure that patients always receive the highest level of care available. Continuing education units (CEUs) let nurses build skills in different specialties as well as complete required compliance courses. Depending on the state that you work in, the amount of continuing education units and what subjects are required can vary. However, there are several ways in which you can attain CEUs. Read more below on the fastest and easiest ways to complete your CEU requirements.

CEUs Explained

Continuing education units are meant to provide training in the latest technology and the best practices in nursing to deliver safe patient outcomes. CEUs can be earned after graduating from a formal nursing program and can take the form of workshops, reading peer-reviewed academic journals and completing exams, attending seminars/conferences, or completing approved CE courses online from accredited sources.

Nurses can also use these courses to become certified or recertified as a nurse midwife, nurse anesthesiologist, or nurse practitioner depending on the courses provided. Again, depending on your state, there may be certain requirements for CEs and course topics – for example, some boards may require courses in specific subjects like prescription opioid drugs or pain management. In California, nurses are required to complete 30 hours worth of continuing education courses every 2 years, while in Tennessee, nurses only need 5.

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What DOESN’T Count as a Nurse CEU Course?

Nurses have the option and, in some cases, are required to earn CEUs in multiple different topics and formats. Some courses may seem like they would fulfill CE requirements for nurses but do not. It’s also important to make sure that you take courses from an accredited association or school to receive qualifying CEUs.

Basic and Advanced Life Support Certification

As part of the introductory training, nurses will need to pass basic life support certification, which includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation and advanced cardiac life support certification. These certifications are required for nursing licensure but generally do not contribute to CEUs needed to renew a license.

Career-Focused Courses

Plenty of professional development courses are available for nurses that teach them about retirement, resume writing, and interviewing preparation. These courses are important for career development but will not contribute to CEU requirements.

Continuing Medical Education (CME) Courses

To maintain their license, physicians and other medical professionals must take CME courses. However, nurses generally cannot take CME courses for license renewal – though this can vary from state to state.

Employer Workshops on Workplace Policies and Procedures

As part of their orientation, nurses often have to complete courses for their employers consisting of safety, compliance, and introductory courses. Generally, states will not accept these courses for CEU requirements. Boards may allow continuing education courses offered through an employer if they have credit-hour designations and offer a certificate of completion.

Non-Nursing College Courses

Postsecondary courses covering non-nursing topics, such as general education requirements, are generally not recognized by state nursing boards as viable CEU courses.

Professional Nursing Meetings and Conventions

Nursing organizations sometimes sponsor conventions and meetings, but attending these will not count toward CEU credits. However, there are some accredited seminars and workshops from professional organizations that may qualify nurses for CEU credit.

What DOES Count as A Nursing CEU Course?

Regional nursing boards set the criteria for CEU requirements, so always check with your state requirements so you don’t complete unnecessary training. Nurses can find both free and paid courses, and in many cases, if you do have to pay for credits, employers often cover the costs.

State and Nursing Board-Approved Courses

CEU courses must be accredited by professional nursing organizations, government agencies, or schools. If you are a nurse in California, you can earn up to 4 CE credits by taking courses at

Academic Peer-Reviewed Articles and Supplemental Exams

Depending on your state, nurses are able to earn CEUs for reading journal articles that discuss nursing and taking an accompanying exam.

Taking Specialty Nursing Credentialed Exams

Depending on your state’s nursing board, they may recognize specialty certifications or recertifications, such as credentials to become a nurse midwife or nurse anesthesiologist.

Publishing an Article or Chapter Related to Nursing

If nurses publish their own research articles or chapters in a nursing-related publication, they can receive CEUs, depending on state board rules.

FAQs about CEUs

One ‘contact' hour refers to 50-60 minutes of instruction in a board-approved class or clinical or didactic activity. One CEU equals 10 contact hours. You must keep track of your own continuing education credits to fulfill license renewal requirements. Make sure that the courses you take clearly display the number of continuing education credits or contact hours they count for. Depending on your employer, they may also require nurses to fulfill CEU requirements of their own.

Can I Get Free Nursing CE?

Often, CE credit courses will require payment, but sometimes you can also find free resources. You can remain in your current clinical practice through the AACN’s no-cost continuing education activities, although you may need an active membership for free access. The International Center for Regulatory Scholarship also offers paid and free CEs, including a free series on COVID-19 training. Often paid CE courses will offer more credits than free programs.

Depending on your employer and state, sometimes you may write off CE courses if you need them to keep your job or renew your license, potentially qualifying for a “lifetime learning credit.”

How Many Nursing CEUs Do I Need?

Continuing education is not required for nurses in every state. 39 states, D.C., and all U.S. territories require completion of CEUs for license renewal, but the number of credits and length of time between renewals varies widely from state to state. Many states require one-time or ongoing periodic refresher courses or specific content in areas such as sexual assaults, domestic violence, substance abuse, and ethics. These requirements may also be enforced by employers.

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