Continuing Education in Washington reviewed

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    “I can’t afford to go back to school”, “I have been a nurse for over 20 years, why do I need more education?” How am I going to get 45 hours done?” These are all things that I have heard from fellow nurses upon learning about the impending requirement for Continuing education. Being internet savvy I started looking into ways to get continuing education units and found it not only relatively simple but also free in many cases! Many nurses are still intimidated and overwhelmed by this new requirement as well as don’t understand the point. I am hoping to take my independent study opportunity to help demystify Continuing education. In the next few weeks on this thread I will be examining what the requirement states, the importance of continuing education, different ways to fulfill the requirement, and documentation required to prove it is fulfilled. I will also be completing 15 hours of continuing education units with a follow up of what I got from each hour, how I feel it can be applied to my practice, and how long it took me in relation to the credit received. I will also be following this post daily to interact and answer questions. As this topic will be specifically geared towards Washington State requirements, feel free to chime in from other states as to how it is similar or differs though please indicate the state you practice in. I am hoping in the end we are all a little more comfortable if not enthusiastic about the opportunity for current knowledge in nursing.

    Thank You in advance for helping me with my class as well as working together to examine continuing education


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  2. 36 Comments...

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    According to the department of health the goal for the new education and active nursing hours requirement is to “assure nurses stay current on the knowledge and skills of their nursing practice.” (doh, 2011). As of January 2011 all licensed practical nurses and registered nurses will be required to keep records to verify compliance to be presented upon request through random audits. In a three year period it is required to have completed 531 hours of active nursing practice. This can be in a professional paid or volunteer capacity. The requirement only states that it must be performing duties required of licensed personnel. In addition to hours of practice, the nurse must demonstrate continuing education equal to 45 hours over a three year look back period. These requirements can be completed in three years cumulatively or in one year. If it is spread over three years then the requirement would be equivalent of 177 hours of practice and 15 hours of continuing education annually. In discussing the requirements with others 177 hours of practice has only been an issue for new grads trying to break into a tough job market. The continuing education hours seems to be the greatest source of stress and therefore will be my focus.
    Continuing education as required by Washington state is not as strict as some states or one would initially think. Formal education or certified education units are not necessary for the requirement. Listed possible sources do include these options though also include minutes from a staff meeting where nursing topics were discussed, independent study of a nursing topic, presentation of a nursing topic as long as it is verified by the presenter whom does not have to be certified as a CEU provider. To break it down as long as you are “gaining nursing knowledge” and verify your participation then it is acceptable. This can be as simple as encountering a new diagnosis at work so you go home and spend two hours researching the diagnosis to learn more about it. Simply record what resources you used to research the topic and that you spent two hours on it and the date and that is acceptable. Subscribe to a nursing magazine and document the articles read that enrich your practice and how long it took to read them, or attend in services or brown bag sessions at your place of employment requesting a signature of attendance at the end. Often in basic day to day life as a nurse we are completing more than 15 hours a year just being the inquisitive nurses that we naturally are or through basic in service requirements at places of employment. The habit of keeping an accurate log of these educational experiences is of utmost importance.

    For specific regulations concerning continuing education you can review the following :

    more information to come, feel free to follow, comment or ask questions, in fact please do!

    Last edit by klwtiger on Oct 26, '11
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    Some say why continuing education? I have been doing this job for years and never needed it before; it’s a waste of my time. Is it? I am a big believer that I learn something new every day whether I try to or not. The medical field is ever changing and as nurses we should naturally want to keep up. To put it in perspective let’s look at other professions where as consumers we value keeping up with the times. What if a mechanic relied only on their professional education received 20 years ago? How would your brand new 2011 hybrid fare against the skills learned to work on a 1990 Chevrolet? How about computer repair and the advances made their in the last 20 years? A tech with no advancement would be baffled at the usb drive and still looking for the floppy drive. Those are just things that we can technically live without yet we expect top quality service with current information and technology to get us back on the highway be it the interstate or the information highway. We should be eager and willing to want to keep up with the times and learn about new treatments, assessment techniques, and disease pathophysiology to best treat our patients. discusses the topic of continuing education and lists the following:
    The Code for Nurses (ANA, 1985) outlined nurses' ethical responsibilities. Several of the statements directly relate to all nurses' responsibility to maintain professional knowledge and competence in their practice:
    Plank 4 - The nurse assumes responsibility and accountability for individual nursing judgments and actions.
    Plank 5 - The nurse maintains competence in nursing.
    Plank 6 - The nurse exercises informed judgment and individual competence and qualifications as criteria.
    Plank 7 - The nurse participates in activities that contribute to ongoing development of the profession's body of knowledge. (p. 1)
    To be a good competent nurse we must strive to continually educate ourselves. It matters not whether it is formal education or reading on our own via professional magazines, book or the internet as long as we continue to grow in our knowledge and understanding as medicine advances. If we examine our personal practices I am sure most of us probably far exceed the continuing education requirements and it’s a matter of paying attention and logging. 15 hours a year is a little more than an hour a month. I and most other nurses I know spend at least an hour a week researching a new medication, treatment, or symptom relating to a patient.
    If you like I prefer to gain formal hours of education in addition to fulfilling the day to day needs of patients there are many ways to go about it. On the large scale there is the possibility of pursuing a higher degree or certification in a specialty. Price and time might be an issue for many making it an unfeasible option. Several hospitals in your area might offer workshops after which a continuing education certificate will be issued. These may range from a one to two hour session or an all day seven or eight hour session getting you half way to your annual goal in one day. There are also many options from home to completing certified education units. Professional nursing magazines provide articles to be read with a quiz to follow to be mailed in with a fee following which a certificate of hours will be issued. At $20 - $30 or more an hour this can get pricey quickly. There are webinars available anywhere to free or for a cost where you watch an online presentation for CEU’s. Being a member to online nursing communities such as the ANA will sometimes present free webinar options. My personal choice of CEU’s is reading articles of interest online and submitting a quick quiz then immediatiely receiving a certificate of completion of CEU’s. There are websites such as where for $34.95 a year you can complete up to 100 hours of your choice of CEU’s. Personally I prefer to go the free route. A Google search of free continuing education for nurses leads to a variety of choices. I regularly use Under the education tab click on self-study CE courses and you will see a long list of options on the left hand side. Click on View Free CE Courses and you will see several hundred possibilities divided by specialty or area of interest. The positive to this site besides being free is that upon completion you can instantly print your certificate and the website keeps track of your units completed in case you misplace your documents. If you are a motivated self learner with basic computer skills this for many is the best option. Free, no time constraints, and able to be tailored to personal needs and interests.
    In the next few weeks I will be personally completing 15 hours from to demonstrate the ease of the site, quality of information presented, and how I feel it applies to my nursing practice. If I have this requirement anyway why not make sure I use it to truly make me a better more informed nurse. Again feel free to follow along, comment, or ask questions as I continue along in this journey.
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    Today I completed hour 1 of 15 of Continuing education units. I read an article on free of cost, took a quiz which can be repeated as many times as needed to get the required 75% passing score or if you are OCD like me getting the 100% score. For the one hour of credit I spend approximately 54 minutes from the time I entered the site until my 100% was achieved and certificate made available to me. This also included several pauses to adjust the music if an annoying song came on, doing a little side task then getting back to business.
    The article I read was "The Power of Change". It outlined why change is necessary in the health care field and several ways to go about invoking change. Although I do not hold a managerial position at my facility, we are currently undergoing several major changes including transitioning to 12 hour shifts. It was enlightening to compare how the change is occuring with the different approaches outlined in the article. I was reminded of the importance of change no matter how much we resist and the most powerful statement at the end read "Nurses who work in today’s healthcare environment must view change as a part of life and seek ways to become involved in the process. As the largest healthcare profession, nurses make the healthcare system run — and many nurses have great ideas about how to make healthcare organizations run better. By continuing to learn more about change and how to make it happen, nurses are in a key position to help the goals of a new administration become a reality." Change is going to happen regardless so we might as well hop on board and help with the process.
    Although this article did bring insight to my current situation I am not sure how it is going to affect my overall practice. If nothing else hopefully I will remember to accept change as it comes and not be afraid to speak up and help if I see a change that can be made for the benefit of the patients and facility.
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    As is the reality of life other things have been bumped up on the priority list while my continuing education focus has been pushed to the side. Being a lifelong procrastinator this is not an unusual event for me. I think this will actually help make the experience a little more realistic as many of us are busy with life and may forget about the requirement all together until we receive the renewal notice in the mail ,causing us to need to complete the units in a relatively short period of time. I now have gotten a few of the priorities complete and am able to move this closer to the top of the list.
    Today I completed a once hour credit titled Taking Care of Me! The Art of Developing Healthy Habits. There were two potions for this course, a webinar which was a video taping of a lecture given, and the accompanying power point which can be reviewed in PDF form. The webinars can be a little hard to understand as it is not usually high quality equipment used for the recording but if you have difficulty just reading and absorbing this might be a good choice. There is also usually more information in the webinar version as it is common for the speaker to mildly or dramatically expand upon the PowerPoint slides. The webinar in this case was just slightly over 1 hour long so together with the short quiz at the end equates to about an hour and 15 minutes. The PowerPoint took approximately 20 minutes on its own to review. In all outside of specific statistical data, there was not a lot of new information for me. In a nutshell it stated that nursing is stressful on the mind and the body, and notoriously nurses take horrible care of themselves. The combination can lead to poor health. The time is now to take the steps to make a change which involves making a decision to change, formulating a plan, taking the first steps, and sticking to it. I found it to be more of a motivational speech rather than an educational experiencing, though considering the poor health of the majority of nurses, might be just what we need. Being the holiday season I am not sure how much of this I will realistically take to heart though it is something that has been recently discussed in our household and a plan is already to beginning to formulate so I really might refer back to this for a few pointers and reminders. In all I am sure that if I took better care of myself it would in the end allow me to be a better nurse though I don’t think this will have a direct immediate effect on my nursing.
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    I am retiring before I have to do this.....lucky me!
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    As I was on a roll I watched another webinar. This was “Are You SAD? Shedding Light on Seasonal Affective Disorder”. The webinar was presented at a rather slow pace without much addition to the accompanying PowerPoint. It described how to differentiate seasonal affective disorder from depression expressing that both are severe as well as linking SAD with bipolar disorder and if both are inflicting a person requires a different treatment approach. Although interesting information, working in long term care at this point I don’t encounter seasonal affective disorder so I will most likely not use this in my practice in the near future though it is a good reminder to keep in mind possible need for changes in treatment when diagnosis affect people differently when another diagnosis plays part.
    In all I spent a little over an hour for the 1 hour of credit. I did encounter something I have not encountered before after completing the quiz. Although I was navigating within the free CEU list it led me to a page to pay $15 in order to be issued the certificate. Since being in Washington state we are not required to completed certified units but rather just keep track of educational encounters, simply listing the title and time spent would be sufficient in this case. If you would rather have a tangible piece of paper you could print the screen shot of the page showing you had passed the quiz before moving on to the survey just in case this happens but again not necessary in the state of Washington.
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    "In a three year period it is required to have completed 531 hours of active nursing practice. This can be in a professional paid or volunteer capacity. The requirement only states that it must be performing duties required of licensed personnel."

    This part bothers me, a lot. If a nurse decides to take time away from nursing to start a family, or if a nurse must take an extended medical leave (let's say for cancer treatment) I feel this requirement creates a hardship. If one cannot work, one probably can't volunteer either.
    jahra likes this.
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    Quote from tntrn
    "In a three year period it is required to have completed 531 hours of active nursing practice. This can be in a professional paid or volunteer capacity. The requirement only states that it must be performing duties required of licensed personnel."

    This part bothers me, a lot. If a nurse decides to take time away from nursing to start a family, or if a nurse must take an extended medical leave (let's say for cancer treatment) I feel this requirement creates a hardship. If one cannot work, one probably can't volunteer either.

    531 hours doesn't seem like much of a "hardship" to maintain a professional license, IMO. That's less than 1/10 of the hours of a full-time position over three years. If someone can't somehow manage to pick up 531 hours of paid or volunteer nursing practice over three years, maybe s/he doesn't need the license all that badly. And I can certainly understand states wanting to avoid the situation of having people completely drop out of nursing practice for an extended period and then decide to return to practicing.
    kids likes this.
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    531 hours is just over 3 months of full time hours. I am looking into what would be required to reinstate a license if the requirement is not met if there is a medical or family situation preventing the hours from being reachable. If it is looked at from a patient standpoint would a patient feel comfortable knowing their nurse has been out of practice for three years or more with no additional requirement before returning to practice? The medical world is ever changing and advancing and it is our responsibility as nurses to keep our skills at or above basic competency. This would be difficult to do if removed completely from practice for three years.

    As for retiring before needing to complete the requirement, most nurses I know who have retired maintain their licenses at least for a period of time. Part of it is status for some as they have earned it and want to maintain it, part of it is to leave the possibility open for returning to work if the need arises or if retired life just gets too boring ;-) and they want to pick up a few shifts or to pad the vacation fund. If working full time you should already have the hours requirement to cover you for the next three years and would only need to complete some continuing education which you might have already if your place of employment requires in-services. It might be worth thinking about unless you are absolutely sure you are done with nursing forever!

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