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What I Wish I’d Known About Continuing Education: Managing Time and Money [Part 2 of 3]

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Lane Therrell FNP, MSN, RN has 6 years experience and works as a Wellness Coach, Clinical Nursing Instructor.

39 Likes; 6 Followers; 24 Articles; 9,707 Visitors; 128 Posts

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This article is Part 2 of a 3-part series to help you streamline your own personal continuing education plan. Part 1 addressed knowing your license and credential renewal requirements. Part 2 offers my thoughts on managing your time and money to keep continuing education from breaking the bank. Part 3 addresses record keeping.

What I Wish I’d Known About Continuing Education: Managing Time and Money [Part 2 of 3]

I’ve always viewed my continuing education requirements as an investment in my future. But now that I hold three state licenses, an advanced practice national board certification and a specialty certification, I’ve caught myself wondering how to keep them all current without letting the pursuit of continuing education (CEs) take over my life and bank account.

It never occurred to me to ask about the real-world details of continuing education until I found myself surrounded by them. When I realized I was spending way too much money and time on maintaining my licenses and credentials, I made a list of things I wish someone had told me: 1) leverage your choices; 2) set a budget; 3) keep a calendar and don’t procrastinate.

Leverage Your Choices

In principle, continuing education benefits you as well as your patients, employers, state licensing boards and credentialing agencies. Leverage your choices by selecting CEs that serve your interests, growth and development. Start by being clear about your own professional and personal goals and the extent to which your employer supports you in maintaining your CEs.

Employers may or may not support your ongoing CE requirements. In my case, even though my CEs are mandated, my part-time employer does not financially compensate my continuing education efforts. So, I’m on my own when it comes to paying for my CEs. Being clear about my goals helps me get the most bang for my buck.

I began setting my professional goals by making two lists. One identifies the topics and skills I’d like to develop, review, or improve and the topics I’m drawn to or curious about. The other is a list of specialty certifications I’d like to earn someday. These lists make it much easier to prioritize my CE choices.

Leveraging your CE choices can also be FUN when you choose to integrate continuing education with your social life. One way is by attending CE conferences with colleagues or family members. I’ve attended conferences with friends from nursing school, which allowed us to catch up and spend time together while being productive. I’ve also attended conferences with work colleagues, which gave us a chance to get to know each other at a deeper, more personal level than work time allowed. One of my colleagues routinely plans her family vacations around CE conferences in destination locations. She adds on extra vacation days before or after the conference sessions so she can to spend quality time with her loved ones while accomplishing professional goals.

Set A Budget

Continuing education comes with a price. While many employers support continuing education in some way, not all do. If you work part time or per-diem, you’re less likely to have all your continuing education requirements fully supported by your employer. And even when your employer supports CEs, the CEs your employer supports may not fulfill all the requirements for every credential you hold.

Anything your employer doesn’t cover comes out of your pocket, so be sure to ask about continuing education support during employment interviews. And if you choose to pursue an entrepreneurial direction, make sure your business budget includes the cost of maintaining your credentials over time.

Anticipating Costs

Costs of CEs vary widely. Attending conferences is usually the most expensive way to obtain CEs because conferences include additional costs such as membership and registration fees, travel, food and lodging. on the lower end of the price scale, many on-demand CE courses are available online. NurseCE4Less and NetCE are two of my favorites. Another way to access lower-cost CEs is to activate any CE features that may be included in professional publications or clinical apps you’re already using. Prescribers Letter is one of my favorites.

A thorough cost assessment requires awareness of hidden costs. Specialty certifications may include training manuals, test prep fees, mentoring fees, exam and testing fees, and possibly other costs in addition to your recurring renewal fee. If your employer supports your CEs, you need to know if your employer pays for these additional or hidden costs or just the CEs themselves. If you choose to earn a specialty, will you be able to earn a higher salary after being certified in the specialty? Weighing the cost to you now against the value of advancing your career for the future will help you make the choice that’s right for you.

Building a Realistic Budget

Your continuing education budget must include the cost of the CE opportunities themselves well as the cost of your license and credential renewal fees. Decide how much you are willing and/or able to spend per year on continuing education out-of-pocket, and set that amount aside ahead of time. Remember that renewal requirements and processing fees are subject to change.

When I tally the renewal fees for all my credentials and prescribing privileges (at current rates), I see that I should keep about $700 set aside to cover them when they’re due. When I add up my CE hours requirements, I know my annual target is to log at least 15 hours of CE credits each calendar year, with 7 of those being pharmacology related and 8 of them focused on other specialty requirements. By earmarking $300 per year for CE courses, I can meet my minimum CE needs with online and subscription-based choices and attend an occasional conference. This realistic approach to CE empowers me to chip away at my requirements little by little without feeling overwhelmed.

What works for you? The bottom line is, set a budget and stick to it. Make sure your budget can accommodate increased fees. And don’t forget to consult a tax professional to see if any of your out-of-pocket expenditures are tax deductible.

Keep a Calendar and Don’t Procrastinate.

It sounds almost too simple to mention, but especially if you have multiple renewal deadlines, be sure to mark them on a long-term planning calendar. Whatever format you choose, know when your renewals are due and allow sufficient lead time to submit your information.

Each license and credential renewal has its own renewal timeframe. In my case, my state RN, PHN, and NP licenses need to be renewed every 2 years, my advanced practice certification (FNP-BC) every 5 years and my Healing Touch specialty certification every 5 years. Thankfully, my two 5-year renewal cycles did not begin at the same time. The offset due dates happened by lucky accident, not because I planned it. But I’m glad it worked out this way because the two credentials have vastly different renewal requirements.

Don’t procrastinate

The clock starts ticking on your next renewal cycle the moment you send in your payment. Five years may seem like a long time to meet all criteria for renewal, but it flew by incredibly fast for me. After renewal, don’t wait to get started earning your new CEs.

I significantly underestimated how long it would take for me to renew my advanced practice board certification because I naively thought I could enter my records quickly online via the credentialing agency’s web site, and be done in a few minutes. To my dismay, the site was being updated at the time my information was due, so I had to submit my renewal in hard copy form. I also spent considerable time on the phone with my credentialing agency.  

One final tip: Plan for the unexpected. Requirements change and hours can be miscalculated. Even if you think you’re caught up and current on your requirements at renewal time, be prepared to pick up some last-minute CEs online.

The bottom line is, managing your CE time and money includes leveraging your CE choices, creating a realistic budget, and keeping a calendar. Once you do this, you’ll feel confident that you’re making the right CE choices for yourself and maximizing the benefits of continuing education without letting CE requirements take over your life.

Question for discussion:

How much time and money are you spending each year to maintain your license and credential requirements?

Sources and Resources:

5 Reasons to Invest in Continuing Education

ANCC 2017 Certification Renewal Requirements

CME-in-the-Letter, Goals & Objectives

Continuing Education for License Renewal

Earning CME/CE/CPD Credit with UpToDate

Lifelong Learning

NetCE

NurseCE4Less

Prescribers Letter

What I Wish I’d Known About Continuing Education: Know Your Requirement [Part 1 of 3]

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Lane Therrell is a family nurse practitioner, health empowerment coach, and freelance writer. She is an adjunct instructor in the nurse practitioner program at Samuel Merritt University.

39 Likes; 6 Followers; 24 Articles; 9,707 Visitors; 128 Posts

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153 Likes; 6,128 Visitors; 509 Posts

A lot of places offer free CEs, such as the ADA, AHA and medscape. If you belong to any professional organizations, check to see if it offers free or reduced cost CEs.   Some organizations even offer a few free CEs to non-members. 

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The www.nurse.com online CEU modules are pretty good and you can just pay one annual membership fee of about $45.  I get the most out of live CEU classes but they can be extremely expensive!  I have really enjoyed the Institute for Brain Potential CEU classes, which I've done live and online.  https://www.ibpceu.com/

I really thought long and hard before renewing my certification through ANCC ($350 every 5 years) but I just sent that in this week.

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Lane Therrell FNP, MSN, RN has 6 years experience and works as a Wellness Coach, Clinical Nursing Instructor.

39 Likes; 6 Followers; 24 Articles; 9,707 Visitors; 128 Posts

21 hours ago, beekee said:

A lot of places offer free CEs, such as the ADA, AHA and medscape. If you belong to any professional organizations, check to see if it offers free or reduced cost CEs.   Some organizations even offer a few free CEs to non-members. 

Yes. Professional organizations can be a huge help. And the ADA, AHA, and Medscape are great resources. I'm a firm believer that we should never say 'no' to free CE.

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Lane Therrell FNP, MSN, RN has 6 years experience and works as a Wellness Coach, Clinical Nursing Instructor.

39 Likes; 6 Followers; 24 Articles; 9,707 Visitors; 128 Posts

13 minutes ago, Golden_RN said:

The www.nurse.com online CEU modules are pretty good and you can just pay one annual membership fee of about $45.  I get the most out of live CEU classes but they can be extremely expensive!  I have really enjoyed the Institute for Brain Potential CEU classes, which I've done live and online.  https://www.ibpceu.com/

I really thought long and hard before renewing my certification through ANCC ($350 every 5 years) but I just sent that in this week.

I like live classes too, and you're right they can be pricey. I haven't tried Brain Potential, but thanks for the link. Sometimes the online course providers offer sales that make the courses more affordable, so if you know what courses you're interested in, and you're on their mailing list, you can watch for sales and take advantage of them.

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Asystole RN works as a Vascular Access Specialist.

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Most companies provide hundreds of free CEs online. There should never be a reason to spend money on them unless there is a very, very specific topic that you want to listen to. 

3M offers nearly 200 free CEs 

https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/3m-health-care-academy-us/ 

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This is an excellent post..

 

Question to you as an MSN

I'm looking to go back to school to get my bsn. All the while I'm thinking, "just go all the way for msn". With that being said with your MSN do you 

 

1.need to specialize

2. Can you work in an in home environment 

3. Is it reccomend you go straight to a hospital and work to gain skills before doing in home.

4.now that you're a nurse practitioner do you have to work out of a hospital ?what's the options

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Lane Therrell FNP, MSN, RN has 6 years experience and works as a Wellness Coach, Clinical Nursing Instructor.

39 Likes; 6 Followers; 24 Articles; 9,707 Visitors; 128 Posts

On 3/6/2019 at 1:08 PM, Asystole RN said:

3M offers nearly 200 free CEs 

https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/3m-health-care-academy-us/ 

Great resource. Thank you for sharing this link. From what I can tell, the CEs offered via the 3M Healthcare Academy come from different providers, so I'm reminding our readers to make sure the CE provider is recognized by your specific licensing or credentialing body before you spend time taking the course.

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Lane Therrell FNP, MSN, RN has 6 years experience and works as a Wellness Coach, Clinical Nursing Instructor.

39 Likes; 6 Followers; 24 Articles; 9,707 Visitors; 128 Posts

55 minutes ago, FutureRnNnc said:

This is an excellent post..

 

Question to you as an MSN

I'm looking to go back to school to get my bsn. All the while I'm thinking, "just go all the way for msn". With that being said with your MSN do you 

 

1.need to specialize

2. Can you work in an in home environment 

3. Is it reccomend you go straight to a hospital and work to gain skills before doing in home.

4.now that you're a nurse practitioner do you have to work out of a hospital ?what's the options

Thank you for your kind words, and I'm so glad you found this post useful. 🙂

I'll do my best to give a "nutshell" answer to your MSN question below. Please feel free to private-message me if you want to have a more in-depth discussion on that topic.

Congratulations on deciding to further your education. As an academic, I tend to be in favor of "more is better" when it comes to education. But you're wise to be practical about it.  Especially right now, when "advanced practice" nursing academics are emphasizing doctoral degrees over master's degrees. Yep, the DNP is replacing the master's level NP, so you'll want to dig deep and ask the right questions to the right people about whether a master's degree will be useful to you moving forward, since an MSN is not really "all the way" any more.

The "specialty" options available to me were Case Management or Family Nurse Practitioner. I chose the FNP route because I wanted more direct patient contact. The FNP skillset (and mindset) is very different from the RN skillset, because as an FNP I can diagnose and prescribe. I can work in homes, hospitals, or clinics. The FNP scope of practice is extremely broad and skills vary by job description and employer. In my state (CA), NP's do not enjoy "independent practice," so I must have a "supervising physician" in order to prescribe or bill to insurance. You'll want to make sure you understand the rules in your state.

Key questions for you to ask yourself are: What kind of work do you see yourself doing in the future and how do the costs of furthering your education balance out with the benefits you'll receive in the end? You might consider identifying some potential employers and peruse their job descriptions or better yet, ask them for an informational interview to find out what specific skills you would need for in-home visits and what their plans are for hiring master's-prepared nurses in the next 3-5-10 years. Then, you'll have a better idea of what path is right for you.

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15 minutes ago, Lane Therrell FNP, MSN, RN said:

Thank you for your kind words, and I'm so glad you found this post useful. 🙂

I'll do my best to give a "nutshell" answer to your MSN question below. Please feel free to private-message me if you want to have a more in-depth discussion on that topic.

Congratulations on deciding to further your education. As an academic, I tend to be in favor of "more is better" when it comes to education. But you're wise to be practical about it.  Especially right now, when "advanced practice" nursing academics are emphasizing doctoral degrees over master's degrees. Yep, the DNP is replacing the master's level NP, so you'll want to dig deep and ask the right questions to the right people about whether a master's degree will be useful to you moving forward, since an MSN is not really "all the way" any more.

The "specialty" options available to me were Case Management or Family Nurse Practitioner. I chose the FNP route because I wanted more direct patient contact. The FNP skillset (and mindset) is very different from the RN skillset, because as an FNP I can diagnose and prescribe. I can work in homes, hospitals, or clinics. The FNP scope of practice is extremely broad and skills vary by job description and employer. In my state (CA), NP's do not enjoy "independent practice," so I must have a "supervising physician" in order to prescribe or bill to insurance. You'll want to make sure you understand the rules in your state.

Key questions for you to ask yourself are: What kind of work do you see yourself doing in the future and how do the costs of furthering your education balance out with the benefits you'll receive in the end? You might consider identifying some potential employers and peruse their job descriptions or better yet, ask them for an informational interview to find out what specific skills you would need for in-home visits and what their plans are for hiring master's-prepared nurses in the next 3-5-10 years. Then, you'll have a better idea of what path is right for you.

Omg !! Thank you so much you are awesome.I hope to go all the way like you did.You are very inspiring. 

I am originally from California now residing in NC. Have you ever heard of ," doctors making house calls?" Not sure if they have that in California or not .

https://www.doctorsmakinghousecalls.com

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Lane Therrell FNP, MSN, RN has 6 years experience and works as a Wellness Coach, Clinical Nursing Instructor.

39 Likes; 6 Followers; 24 Articles; 9,707 Visitors; 128 Posts

9 minutes ago, FutureRnNnc said:

Omg !! Thank you so much you are awesome.I hope to go all the way like you did.You are very inspiring. 

I am originally from California now residing in NC. Have you ever heard of ," doctors making house calls?" Not sure if they have that in California or not .

https://www.doctorsmakinghousecalls.com

Thank you. Interestingly enough, I'm originally from NC now residing in CA. Small world.

Doctors Making Housecalls looks like a good organization from what I can see on their web site. Certainly they are filling a growing need. Reach out to some of their staff for informational interviews, and let me know what you find out. 

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traumaRUs has 25 years experience as a MSN, APRN and works as a Asst Community Manager @ allnurses.

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Great resources!  I currently use:

Audio Digest which is about $1000 per year but well worth it as its very current and covers so many topics. I listen on my daily drives and use some of my CME money to pay for it. 

Also, if you choose to speak at a conference, your registration fee is often paid for by the organizer. This is another way to obtain CME. 

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