Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) are required to earn continuing education credits every couple of years as a condition of their nursing license. To become a nurse, a candidate must complete a degree program from an accredited nursing program and pass the NCLEX licensing exam. However, in order to maintain the nursing license, the nurse must complete continuing education. The type of and amount of continuing education required depends on the type of nurse and the state in which the nurse works.
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Purpose of Continuing Education
Continuing education is mandatory for nurses, at least if they want to continue working as nurses. Failure to meet the continuing education requirement can result in not only a loss of a job but also loss of nursing license. In order to get the nursing license back, the individual might be required to take the nursing licensing exam again. Maintaining the nursing license may be the main reason for continuing education, but it’s not the only benefit of continuing education.
Nurse Journal states that continuing education benefits not just the nurse but also the patients, employers and helps to advance the nursing profession. It benefits nurses in many ways.
• Helps nurses stay current in evidence-based practices so they can provide safe and high-quality patient care.
• It helps to minimize potential legal risks because they’re up-to-date with the current nursing practices and trends.
• It can improve the nurse’s chance for a promotion or an advanced nursing position.
• It provides the nurse with personal and professional satisfaction.
Are All Requirements the Same?
There are different types of continuing education a nurse may be required to complete or may choose to complete. Continuing education may typically be completed through educational courses, approved nursing activities or nursing employment. A continuing education unit credit is equivalent to 10 hours of an approved activity or a course. The courses may be completed through a college, nursing school or some accredited nursing program.
RNs who work in specialized areas of nursing are also required to complete continuing education in their areas of specialty to maintain their certification in those areas. Nurses may not always have a choice in what courses they’re required to take. Every type of nurse is required to complete a certain type of continuing education, and some may be chosen specifically by the employer.
How Much Continuing Education is Required?
The amount of continuing education required depends on the type of nurse and the state in which the nurse works according to Nurse.org. An LPN may often be required to complete a different amount of continuing education than an RN. Each state has its own requirements. For example, RNs and LPNs in Alabama are both required to complete 24 contact hours every two years.
In Alaska, nurses are required to complete two of the three following requirements: 30 hours of professional nursing activities; 30 contact hours; or 320 hours of employment as a nurse. Some states, such as Connecticut, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, Maryland, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin and Mississippi do not require continuing education for their nurses.
Working as a nurse can be a challenging and rewarding career. What could be better than working in a field where you can help others and still earn an excellent wage? Keeping current with continuing education is not only a good idea because it’s required to maintain the nursing license but also because it keeps the nurse as knowledgeable as possible with current nursing trends.