One need only to scan a newspaper or read a weekly magazine to be astounded by the number of stories about new medical breakthroughs, disease processes, emerging threats of disease, or innovations in medical and health care technology. The World Health Organization warns us to prepare for a potential worldwide Bird Flu epidemic, terrorists threaten us with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and new protocols for ACLS are released. How is a working nurse to keep up?
Nursing education provides the basic building blocks of medical, scientific, and nursing knowledge, but competence in the nursing profession requires an ongoing process of continuing education. Continuing education for nurses is necessary for the nurse to remain up to date with the latest practice issues and it is necessary for patients safety as well. Some states have made continuing education for nurses mandatory and require a certain number of course credit hours be attained before license renewal, or require certain mandatory course subjects, while other states leave it to the nursing professional themselves to accept a personal responsibility for their own continued learning. Regardless of whether nursing continuing education courses are mandatory in ones state or not, all nurses who describe themselves as professionals need to be willing and ready to implement change in their own practice by realizing that competence in any profession requires periodic updating.
Methods of obtaining nursing continuing education hours and the pros and cons of each:
1. Professional Journals: Most professional nursing journals offer an article for continuing education credit. Some offer a partial credit hour or one credit hour to readers who fill out a post test after reading the article and mail it in. While some journals offer the credit for free, others charge $10 or more and in addition to the inconvenience of needing to tear out a post test form and mail it in the nurse has no official record of having taken and passed the course. Obtaining continuing education hours through professional journals is costly and inefficient in that the cost of the journal itself must be taken into consideration along with the cost of the course if there is one, and the time and expense of mailing in addition to the lack of official record of completion and lack of central maintenance of all credits accumulated by the nurse. Additionally, nurses who rely on professional journals for their CEU hours are typically only exposed to courses related to their own specialty rather than a broader range of topics that they actually need to be exposed to in today's ever evolving health care climate.
2. Seminars: Professional development programs and seminars that offer accredited continuing education hours for nurses are frequently offered at various locations in every state, in some foreign countries, and even on cruises. Employers frequently pay the registration fees for nurses to attend local seminars of short duration such as one day, but nurses still have to sacrifice their precious day off to attend them or lose time from work to do so. In addition nurses who attend seminars away from home have to pay their own travel expenses, hotel bills, and costs of meals. Needless to say cruises and foreign travel are an appealing avenue, but obtaining one's continuing education by that method is not something every working nurse can afford to do.
3. Online Nursing Certificate Programs: The internet provides nurses access to extremely affordable and high quality accredited continuing education programs and professional certificate courses covering a plethora of professional nursing topics. Online nursing certificate courses are the gateway to nursing continuing education for the 21st century! Nurses who take advantage of online nursing courses are not restricted by geographical barriers, financial hardships, or the inconvenience of taking time from work or family in order to attend courses. Online nursing education courses are readily available for both mandatory state required subjects, courses in ones own nursing specialty, and courses that all nurses regardless of practice specialty need to be familiar with. Online nursing programs give nurses easy access to a much broader choice of subject matters than they ever had before when restricted primarily to journals or seminars. In addition to those benefits, substantial as they are, online nursing courses are inexpensive, up to date with changing trends, can be taken from the comfort of ones own home.