The Value of Continuing Education for Nurses

Continuing education for nurses are experiences that expand the knowledge or skills of nurses. In contrast to formal educational programs which results in a degree, continuing education courses are shorter and more specific. Nurses usually receive certificates of completion and earn continuing education units.

There are several courses to choose from. Topics can be based on a particular specialty such as dialysis, oncology or forensic nursing. Others deal about nursing activities such as pain management, wound dressing, or maintaining central lines. Continuing education may also be about legal aspects such as substance abuse among nurses or malpractice suits.

But what is the importance of continuing education for nurses? There are many reasons why every nurse needs continuing education. One of them is the ever-changing nature of medical and nursing knowledge. Every nurse enters the profession with the necessary skills and knowledge. Yet, the nurse needs to keep abreast of the latest developments in health care. This ensures competence and patient safety.

Another important benefit of continuing education programs is that they help nurses achieve expertise in their respective specialty. By acquiring specialized skills, they will be a great resource for their patients. For example, an oncologic nurse who is updated with the latest cancer research is expected to care for cancer patients better than the average nurse. Continuing education will also open up more career opportunities for nurses because highly-specialized nurses are very much in demand. They will have a greater chance of getting promoted and will be able to increase their marketability as a highly-paid professional.

State boards of nursing have made it mandatory for practicing nurses to obtain continuing education units before they can renew their licenses. Again, this is to make sure nurses are updated with the latest medications, legal issues, new medical equipment and other issues affecting their practice. The goal is to promote competence and public safety. States require continuing education credits of between 15 and 30 contact hours within a one to three year re-licensure period. States board of nursing often change their rules regarding continuing education and nurses must contact them for specifics.

There are several ways in which to gain continuing education credits. Many courses are provided by state boards of nursing, professional nursing organizations, nursing schools and other third-party providers. Contact hours are attained through actual clinical experiences, seminars, home study, and online classes. It is important for nurses to always check if the continuing education provider is accredited by the state board of nursing or state health department before they enroll in a course.

Aside from being a legal requirement for license renewal, nurses should remember that improved quality of care, nursing expertise and professional advancement can also be achieved with the help of continuing education for nurses.

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