Every registered nurse knows what Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are. A few states don’t require nurses to complete CEUs, but most of them do. And even in the ones that don’t, a nurse’s place of employment (such as a hospital or other healthcare facility) will probably require them anyway. One way or another, completing CEUs is essential for most nurses to maintain their licenses, jobs, or both.
Of course, this means that nurses will have to figure out CEU requirements at some point in their careers. Not only will they have to meet the deadlines imposed by their state of residence, but they’ll also have to make sure they’re meeting other state-specific requirements. Plus, it’s recommended that each nursing CEU course matches their interests and learning styles too; it’s just easier to stay motivated that way. Even though the main purpose of nursing CEUs is to keep your nursing license current, they can also be beneficial on a personal level too.
The most important thing to do is to follow state requirements
Many states have similar requirements, but “close enough” won’t work here – you have to be sure of what your specific state board of nursing (BON) requires. This is how you’ll find out how many CEUs you’ll need, the deadline for completing them, and the length of each license renewal period. There are plenty of ways to find all this information out (and more), but the best way is to visit their site directly.
If you’ve spent years practicing as a nurse in the same state, the requirements won’t change too much from one renewal period to the next. If you’re planning on moving to a different state, however, you’ll have to be aware of the CEU requirements in your new state of residence. This is pretty rare, but it’s happened in a few cases: a nurse will move states for a job in healthcare, then realize that they’re facing a tight deadline for CEUs that they forgot to check on before finalizing the move. This not only jeopardizes their nursing license, but also possibly their employment status.
You’ll also be asked to document proof of completed CEUs
Each state differs with regards to the type of proof you’ll be asked to show. You might have to submit documentation for each CEU course online, or you might just have to keep records in case you get audited later. Some states even specify how long you should hold onto those records. The process is different for every state, but one thing is consistent – you should always keep accurate records.
Another technicality to keep in mind is that not every state requires documentation for the first round of CEUs for license renewal, but they do for every subsequent round. Why is this? That isn’t clear, but it just illustrates the importance of reading up on CEU requirements in your state.
Choose your CEU courses wisely
There are plenty of reasons to be intentional about which courses you choose, but for brevity’s sake, here are the highlights:
You may have to comply with state requirements
In many states, nurses can take any CEU courses they choose provided they take enough of them. In some cases, however, the state BON specifies that a certain number of contact hours be spent on specific subjects. For example, nurses in a particular state might be asked to spend two contact hours each on ethics and substance abuse. These are just examples; nurses might have to do the same for subjects like palliative care, domestic abuse, medication errors, ABG interpretation, and more.
You could have a wider variety of options
It’s always great to pick the CEU course that you find relevant and interesting, but that may not be possible if you wait until the last minute to register for them. Many nurses don’t plan ahead for their CEU courses, mostly because their busy schedules make it hard to do so – until they don’t really have the option to wait any longer, that is. By the time they start looking for the classes they need, they’re competing with all the other nurses who’ve done the same thing. They should be able to get enough contact hours, but some of the courses might not be very relevant to their careers or specializations.
You could choose courses that match your learning style
Not all nurses know this, but they have a lot more options than just classroom-based courses. Some conferences or seminars can count as CEUs, and there are countless online options for those who enjoy a less traditional format. It’s possible to find classes that focus on attending lectures, learning from assigned textbooks, viewing webinars, and much more.
Your career will benefit more
If you can target some of your CEU courses to your chosen area of specialization, you’ll be able to leverage all that time and effort to benefit your career. Some CEUs let you earn certificates, while others simply build on previously gained knowledge. Whatever the case, they can be used just like other professionals use continuing education – to qualify for a promotion or raise, to become more eligible for a dream job, or to simply be better at what you’re already doing.
Confirm that the CEU courses you take are accredited
Last but certainly not least, it’s important to make sure that each CEU course you complete is accredited by the state BON or by the ANCC. Without this accreditation, you could end up taking courses that don’t count towards the official requirements; they might benefit you personally, but that’s about it. Accredited course providers will have their own provider number, which you can ask for before enrolling just to be sure. If there’s ever any question about a course’s accreditation status, your state’s BON should be able to give you an answer.
Completing CEU requirements can seem like a complicated task at first, but with a bit of homework beforehand, you should get a firm grasp on everything that’s needed in order to satisfy your state’s nursing CEU requirements.