Continuing education (CE) is a watchword for nursing. As the field of health care advances and medical knowledge deepens, you need to be knowledgeable to care for your patients in the best way possible. Additionally, you're required to have so many CE hours to maintain professional certifications and in some states to keep your license active, many of which are requirements at the state level.
Choose What Interests You
The majority of the time, you will be able to choose which subjects you would like to study for these required hours. Maybe you want to learn more about managing COPD and then take a course on fetal heart monitoring. CEs allow you the opportunity to study whatever sparks your interest, and you can use that time to better prepare for your current nursing assignment, or to prepare for the one that you want.
If you have a professional certification to maintain, it's likely that you will need some CEs in that particular field, but these requirements vary by certification.
Where Do You Get CEs?
Continuing education opportunities are everywhere, you just need to know where to look. Your employer may offer classes or meetings that count as CE hours. Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) or Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) are classes that earn you many hours at one time and award you a certification after passing a test.
A large portion of continuing education is now conducted via the Internet, as independent study. You listen to a lecture or read an article and answer a few questions at the end. To earn the credit, you need to receive a passing score, but they are mostly to ensure that you studied the material.
Other options include attending instructive seminars or conferences that offer CEs or by listening to pharmaceutical representatives talk about their latest and greatest.
Paid vs. Free
Many opportunities to earn CEs are going to require a fee, (ACLS, some independent study and conferences), but there are several that are free (hospital-provided courses, pharmaceutical reps, some online).
For free CEs, check with the American Nurse's Association, or even a simple Google search will come up with several free courses. However, the course variety is limited and may not cover the subjects that interest you.
Another option is to pay a subscription to a continuing education site that allows you to take an unlimited number of credits during the year. Many courses are offered in a variety of fields and can be taken at any time during the year. This is a good choice for nurses that need many CEs in their state and for their certification.
Continuing education is an important part of being a nurse. Nursing school is a great start, but to expand your knowledge, learning on the job doesn't provide the depth of education that a specific course can. CEs allow you to expand your nursing education on your own time, guided by your own interests.
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