Continuing education - these two words either excite you or send you into a state of boredom-induced slumber unmatched by pretty much anything else in life. Nurses are required to complete continuing education to maintain their licensure. However, experts tell us that there are more significant benefits to continuing education than just keeping our ability to practice the craft of nursing.
Here are a few reasons you should spend your time and money investing in your future.
Every state in the U.S. has a different set of expectations for nurse continuing education requirements. Some states mandate a certain number of continuing education. Others have specific courses or topics they require to address issues that happen in the state, such as child abuse, domestic violence, or laws governing your practice.
Providers of continuing education courses must meet specific rules to ensure that information is current and meets laws and nursing practice as it changes. This safeguards you from completing materials today that was outdated years ago. Be sure your up to date on what you need to know about nursing licensure.
Your patients expect to be safe when in your care. No one wants to be responsible for adverse drug events, falls, or other unsafe patient situations. While it is impossible to eliminate errors altogether, it should still be your goal.
When nurses participate in continuing education that focuses on best-practices, patient-centered care, and safety prevention - errors lessen and patient satisfaction increases.
Fostering a culture of lifelong learning in nursing is one of the pivotal practices that keep patients safe. In fact, when the 1999 To Err is Human: Building a Safer Healthcare System was published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), it showcased some scary numbers about patient safety:
Up to 98,000 patients die each year due to preventable medical errors
Medical errors cost up to $29 billion each year nationwide
You might think that the IOM would have been looking for high-tech ways to rectify these numbers. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the IOM joined forces to establish eight recommendations with goals for the next 20 years. Half of the strategies created to fix the issues found were based solidly in education. The four learning strategies included implementing nurse residency programs, increasing the percentage of nurses with a baccalaureate degree, doubling the number of nurses with a doctorate, and engaging nurses in lifelong learning.
I believe that this study illustrates the strength of continuing education in nursing. When nurses are empowered to increase their own understanding of the profession, patients are safer and more satisfied with their care.
Meeting Certification Requirements
Have you considered becoming certified in a nursing specialty? Accrediting bodies often have their own requirements you must meet to maintain your certification. You might need to complete courses on specific topics or areas to achieve the necessary requirements.
For example, if you’re like me and have a certification in Case Management, you’ll need to show that you’ve completed 80 hours of approved continuing education specific to being a case manager. Many courses will meet the requirements you need for your certification while also keeping you compliant with your state board of nursing.
Gaining New Skills and Meeting Changes
Healthcare is becoming more innovative every day. From new drugs and treatments to the use of artificial intelligence and virtual reality, there’s so much to learn. Instead of waiting for hands-on training opportunities to come to you on the job, consider enrolling in a CE course that provides an overview of skills you know you’re going to need.
It’s essential to remember that not all new skills are technical. While learning how to use equipment or how to assess for specific diseases is necessary, sometimes the skills you need most are interpersonal. If you’re struggling at work with communication, time management, or you’re considering moving up the career ladder, there are courses to help you gain the knowledge you need.
Advancing Your Career
Whether you’re considering certification, returning to school, or just want to stay up on the latest research - all of this learning will help to advance your career. Continuing education is an excellent place to start if you’re considering changing your specialty. You can choose a few courses to take to learn the basics of just about any nursing niche out there so that you can find out if it might be right for you.
Continuing education might be mandated. However, if you can flip the script on how you approach continuing education requirements you might find that there are many reasons to invest in your professional development.
How do you feel about mandated continuing education? Do you enjoy it or do you just complete it because it’s required to maintain your certification?