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Nurse's Continuing Education: An Overview

The field of registered nursing requires some formal education to enter, as well as continuing education to maintain licensure. Learn about the job requirements and continuing education options to see if this is the right career for you.

Continued education is a requirement for registered nurses who wish to renew their state license. By seeking out courses in their field, RNs are able to stay current with the newest technology and techniques that are used in local hospitals. Continued education courses are offered at local hospitals, community colleges and universities.

Essential Information

Most registered nurses (RNs)complete continuing education coursework throughout their careers to maintain their state licenses. Continuing education helps nurses keep up with new medical technologies and treatment programs to provide their patients with the best care. Becoming an RN involves completing an undergraduate program and passing a licensing exam.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in nursing, associate's degree in nursing, or nursing diploma from an approved program
Other Requirements Continuing education courses
Licensure Required in all states
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 16% (for all registered nurses)
Median Annual Salary (May 2015)* $67,490 (for all registered nurses)

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Continuing Education for Nurses

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that states and employers may require nurses to take periodic continuing education (CE) courses to maintain state licensure or certification (www.bls.gov). Nurses of all types, from licensed vocational nurses to advanced practice nurses like nurse practitioners, have an opportunity to gain additional training, knowledge and experience throughout their careers.

Continuing education may also be required in order to maintain professional certification. For instance, advanced practice nurses must take CE courses to keep their professional certifications valid (www.nursecredentialing.org). Courses may cover myriad potential topics, such as new treatment options, professional guidelines or other skills necessary for successful nursing. Some of the CE course topics available to nurses include:

  • Medical toxicology
  • Wound care
  • Sanitation and infection control
  • New vaccines
  • New medications
  • Foreign languages for health care professionals
  • Managed care of HIV/AIDS patients
  • Detection of domestic violence
  • Introduction to school nursing
  • Chronic illness
  • Nurse management
  • Pediatric asthma
  • Surgery risks
  • Anemia and obesity
  • Gerontological nursing

Participating in Continuing Education

Continuing education courses are generally offered by hospitals, community colleges, universities and accredited nursing organizations. There are several ways in which nurses can obtain CE; credit may be given for completing coursework, attending conferences and participating in seminars or professional workshops. Some forms of CE can be completed free of charge, while others require payment. Additionally, some continuing education classes may be open only to participants who have completed specific prerequisites, such as being a registered nurse, gaining the instructor's permission, completing previous coursework or having experience in an area.

During CE, nurses may listen to speakers, work in groups and read case studies. Participants may be required to perform healthcare techniques and be evaluated by instructors.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that jobs for registered nurses were expected to grow 16% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). A May 2015 BLS report found that RNs' median annual salary was $67,490.

Registered nurses are required to complete a variety of coursework and hands-on training, as well as attend seminars, under the supervision of an experienced instructor. While continuing education is required to renew licensure, it's also an easy way for registered nurses to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in their field, giving them the knowledge necessary to further their career.


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