Many nurses put off getting their Nursing CEUs until the last minute. Aside from it being a chore, the requirements and terminology used in Nursing CE can also be unclear. Decoding CE requirements from state board websites can also become challenging because some government websites are difficult to navigate.
If you’re having a hard time navigating the world of continuing education for nurses, we are here to help. Here are 9 things you need to know about Nursing CEUs.
1) Nursing CEUs vs. Contact Hours
The definition of contact hours and continuing education units (CEUs), and the difference between the two, are often misunderstood. Both contact hours and CEUs measure the amount of time an individual participates in a Nursing continuing education experience, but they both represent two completely different measurements.
A CEU is an educational measurement that uses the International Association for Continuing Education and Training criteria. In the United States, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the accrediting body for nursing continuing education providers and approvers, does not use the CEU to measure continuing education credit. Instead, Nursing, as a profession, uses contact hours to count continuing education credit.
One contact hour of continuing education is equal to 50- to 60-minutes of an organized learning activity. One Nursing CEU is equal to 10 contact hours.
However, in reality, the terms “CEU” and “contact hour” are often used interchangeably. It’s still important to know the difference between the two, so you know what to look for when searching for Nursing CEUs.
2) License Renewal
CE requirements must be completed during a renewal period immediately before the license expiration date.
For example, if a nurse in a state with biennial licensure renewal is required to renew by December 31, 2021, he/she must complete the CE requirements between January 1, 2019 and December 30, 2021.
If you have additional contact hours during a renewal period, you cannot “save” and apply them to future renewal periods. Likewise, contact hours earned before your permanent license issuance cannot be used for renewal requirements.
In many states, newly licensed nurses are exempted from CE requirements for the first renewal period. Following the initial license renewal, the nurse must meet the CE requirements as prescribed by their respective state boards.
3) Nursing CEUs Required by State
CEU requirements vary by state. Some states do not require nurses to earn contact hours, while some require up to 45 contact hours. License renewal periods also vary. Some require nurses to secure CEUs every year, while some require nurses to earn CEUs every three years.
Some state also accepts alternative activities, such as publication in peer-reviewed journals, national certification in a nursing specialty, and completion of a refresher course, in lieu of contact hours.
You can find your requirements by going to your state and profession page here.
4) Compact Licensure
The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) grants a nurse multi-state privileges and authorizes nurses licensed and residing in a compact state (their home state) to practice in another compact state. The nurse maintains active licensure only in their primary state of residence.
A primary state of residence, only called a home state, is defined by the NLC as the nurse’s “fixed, permanent and principal home for legal purposes,” and is generally evidenced by where a nurse holds a driver’s license, pays taxes, and votes.
If a nurse’s home state is South Dakota, the nurse must meet South Dakota CE requirements, even when she only practices in Colorado.
5) Acceptable Content for Nursing CEUs
Nursing CE must be relevant to nursing practice and should augment basic nursing knowledge. It should also be beyond the basic educational level for entry into practice.
Acceptable content may include:
- Clinical technology, procedures, and nursing implications
- Specialty areas of nursing practice
- Nursing practice related to the care of the patient
- Administration, management, and supervision in health care delivery
- Social, legal, and ethical aspects of nursing
- Nursing education
- Nursing research, theory, and practice issues
- Quality improvement and management, accrediting standards, and processes
- Initial ACLS, PALS, NRP
- Professional conduct
Coursework completed to comply with BSN or graduate degree programs are also considered acceptable content. Coursework completed to comply with BSN or graduate degree programs are also considered acceptable content. Nurses who complete college credit courses at an accredited higher education institution can earn contact hours, provided that their academic degree is in nursing or relevant to nursing practice.
Typically, one academic semester unit is equal to 15 contact hours, while one academic quarter unit is equal to 10 contact hours.
Contact hours used for certification renewal for specialty certifications may also be used for licensure renewal.
6) Courses Not Accepted
Many state boards do not consider prerequisite courses and general education classes, such as mathematics, government, and anatomy, as acceptable CE activities.
Some states also do not recognize Basic Life Support as an accepted course, since it does not augment basic nursing knowledge. Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) may be used for CE when it is initially obtained. However, for re-certification, ACLS may not be used.
The following activities are common examples of activities that are not acceptable for CE credit in most states:
- Basic CPR
- On-the-job training and equipment demonstration
- Orientation programs designed to introduce employees to a specific work setting
- Courses focusing on self-improvement, changes in attitude, self-therapy, self-awareness, weight loss, or yoga
- Economic courses for financial gain
- Courses for laypeople
- Advanced Skills Renewal Courses
- Repetition of any educational activity with identical content and objectives within a single reporting period
- Agency-specific orientation or in-service programs
- Self-directed independent study activities not approved as CE
- Community service or volunteer practice
- Professional meetings or conventions except for portions approved for CE.
7) Approved Providers of Nursing CEUs
Contact hours must be obtained from an approved provider. An approved CE provider must be approved by state Boards of Nursing or by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Approved providers are issued provider numbers, which are then printed on the learner’s certificate.
You need to keep your own record of your CE, in case you’ll be audited by your state board. You will need the title of the course taken, the number of contact hours awarded, date offered, and provider number.
Keep a digital copy of your certificates and make sure that the certificate has the provider number on it. State boards have different policies on how long certificates should be kept and maintained. In Texas, for example, nurses are required to keep a record of their certificates for three license renewal cycles.
9) Meaningful CE
Many nurses wait until the last minute to earn CEs and then choose topics based on how quickly they can be completed. However, this practice is not ideal. Continuing education is a requirement to help nurses keep pace with the rapidly changing healthcare environment. State boards expect nurses to maintain and improve their competencies in current knowledge, skills, and abilities relevant to their area of practice.
The best nurses are curious and life-long learners. Diversify your skills by picking topics that intrigue you, or choose topics you would like to brush up on in order to improve patient care in your area of practice.
Don’t wait until the last minute to build your expertise and complete your CE requirements. This way, you will have ample time to deepen your knowledge on topics that can help you be the best nurse you can be.
Check out our offers for nursing CEUs here today!