The training process to become a registered nurse is pretty formidable, but the learning doesn’t stop once a nurse has earned their license. In fact, most nurses complete continuing education courses throughout their entire careers. Even in the few states that don’t require nurses to complete CEUs (continuing education units), the nurses may decide to do it anyway.
Given how quickly the field of medicine changes year by year, it’s no wonder that CEUs are so important for nurses. They may not have much wiggle room on whether or not they have to take these courses, but they do get to choose how they take them. Some nurses opt for classroom-based CEUs, while others decide to fulfill nursing CEU requirements online. Regardless of what type of class they take, though, they have to pay close attention to mandated regulations. If you’re curious about what those regulations entail, just keep reading to find out more!
Each State Has Different Regulations
No matter what state you’re in, you’ll have to look up the CEU requirements specific to that state. Since they all set slightly different requirements for nursing CEUs, you can’t just rely on your general knowledge of continuing education for nurses; you’ll be expected to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Here’s the most important information you’ll need to know:
- The Length of Your State’s License Renewal Period – Many states have this set at two or three years, but there’s a lot of variation. You might live in a state that requires nurses to complete CEUs every year, or maybe just once at some point in their nursing career.
- The Deadline for Completing CEUs – Each state establishes its own method for setting these deadlines, so make sure you’re getting the right information; you wouldn’t want to accidentally base your schedule off of another state’s deadline.
- How Many Contact Hours Are Required – Again, this varies state to state. A common number you’ll see is 20 contact hours, but just like with the length of the renewal period, each state plays by its own rules.
- Which Subjects Have to Be Included – This requirement only applies to a few states, but it’s worth noting all the same. You may be required to study specific subjects like ethics in nursing, substance abuse, sexual assault, or others. Usually this just takes up a few contact hours; the remaining ones can be chosen according to your preferences.
You’ll Need to Keep Records of Completed CEUs
In order to prove completion of your required CEUs, you’ll have to submit specific documentation. Once that’s done, though, make sure you don’t throw away the paperwork – it should be kept in file folders, or digitized and kept somewhere secure. Details to include in your records include:
- Course name and ID number
- Course provider
- Number of awarded CEUs
- Date of completion
Check with your state’s board of nursing to confirm how long you should hold onto these records. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever need to dig them out, but just like with business tax records, you don’t want to be caught lacking if there’s ever a need for them.
Missing the Renewal Deadline Isn’t an Option
It’s important to keep in mind that there’s no grace period, and probably no second chance for anyone who fails to submit the appropriate CEU documentation on time. Because of their infamously hectic work schedules, many nurses end up procrastinating on their CEU courses, and then scrambling to complete everything at the last minute. This might work out the majority of the time, but it’s still a risky game to play because of what would likely happen if the deadline were missed.
For one thing, you could lose bonuses or even your job due to an expired license; for another, you may be required to re-take the licensing exam for a second time. All things considered, the work it would take to plan ahead for your CEU courses is probably less than the work it would take to address a missed deadline.
CEUs Can Only Come From Approved Providers
Most nurses are already familiar with what constitutes a CEU, but you can’t necessarily just rely on your common sense to select the right courses. In order to count as a nursing CEU, each course must come from approved providers.
Where does this approval come from? Either the state board of nursing, or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Nurses can certainly take continuing education courses that aren’t accredited as CEUs, but this would simply be for their own benefit, not to satisfy state requirements.
Nursing CEU Frequently Asked Questions
There are plenty of details to know when learning about CEUs; here are a few of the most essential ones.
- How much do nursing CEUs cost?
This all depends on which course you’re taking. It could be anywhere from a few thousand dollars, to nothing at all.
- Where can I take nursing CEUs?
Nursing CEUs can come in the form of college classes, online courses, workshops, seminars or conferences, and more. If you’re ever unsure about the accreditation status of a course, check with the state board of nursing.
- What’s the difference between contact hours and CEUs?
They’re two different ways of measuring the amount of credit awarded for a course; one CEU is worth 10 credit hours.
- Can I bank extra contact hours for the next license renewal period?
Unfortunately this isn’t possible. Sometimes you might end up with extra contact hours because that’s just how your courses added up, or because you took two different courses with duplicate material (meaning one of them doesn’t count). Either way, the extra contact hours can’t be rolled over to the next renewal period.
- Which kinds of courses don’t qualify as CEUs?
College courses that aren’t related to nursing, advanced lifesaving courses, on-the-job training courses, and most nursing-related seminars/conferences aren’t accredited CEUs.
Sometimes it can seem like learning about CEU requirements is a class in and of itself, but as long as you can get the big picture, the details should eventually fall into place.