In most states in the US, nurses are required to complete continuing education units, or CEUs, in order to maintain their nursing licenses.
However, nurses have to do more than just find out whether or not their state of residence requires CEUs; they also have to find out how many are required, how often they have to be completed, and sometimes even which type of CEU is necessary.
On top of all that, there are pretty strict regulations on what is and isn’t a CEU; nurses can’t just put together their own curriculum.
And since it’s up to each nurse to track the CEU requirements for their state, this is something that’s best planned in advance.
If you’re a nurse who’ll have to take CEUs at some point, it’s important to develop a game plan well before you have to deal with approaching deadlines.
You could do your own research to find the right courses, or you could find nursing CEU courses on a platform that’s specifically built to help nurses easily fulfill their CEU requirements.
Either way, the information below should serve as a solid foundation for anyone who wants to learn more about completing their nursing CEUs.
An overview of CEUs for nurses
Continuing education units are meant to act as refresher courses on disease prevention, healthcare promotion, organizational leadership, and ethical nursing practices – the same things covered in nursing school.
Here are a few key facts about continuing education units for nurses:
- CEUs can be free or cost thousands of dollars; it all depends on who’s offering them. Some healthcare organizations provide free CEUs for their employees, but you could also pay to take approved courses from a university. Pro tip: if you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg to complete your CEU requirements, plan way ahead so you can find the courses you want, at the price points you want. If you wait too long, the more economically priced courses may not have any more spots available.
- “Continuing education” isn’t the same thing as a continuing education unit (CEU). You can definitely take educational courses that interest you, but they won’t necessarily count towards your state’s CEU requirements.
- CEUs have to be chosen according to your nursing license. A CEU that counts towards an RN’s requirements may not apply for an LPN or LVN nursing license.
- In order for a course to be approved as a CEU, it must be accredited by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), or by the state board of nursing. Without this accreditation, any given course won’t necessarily get you closer to fulfilling your CEU requirements.
- In addition to checking with the state board about the accreditation status of whichever courses you’re considering, you should also find other relevant details. For example, how many CEUs do you need? Are there additional specifications about which types of courses are required? For example, some states require nurses to fulfill a minimum number of contact hours for specific topics, such as ethics or substance abuse.
Which types of courses don’t count as nursing CEUs?
When in doubt, confirm with the state board of nursing. That being said, some continuing education courses are simply never on the approved list of nursing CEUs. Here are some examples:
- Courses that aren’t related to nursing, including those related to liberal arts, job-hunting skills, financial health or gain, self-improvement, and so on.
- Professional conventions or meetings, even if they’re centered around nursing topics.
- Nursing workplace programs, job-related training, residencies, internships, or orientation.
- College courses that aren’t relevant to the field of nursing.
- CME (Continuing Medical Education) courses are meant for dentists, doctors, and other medical professionals.
- Advanced lifesaving courses and CPR courses.
FAQ for Nursing Continuing Education Courses
As you do your due diligence for your CEU requirements, you may find yourself lost in all the details –wondering what contact hours are or whether your state even requires CEUs for nurses. Below you’ll find the most common questions regarding nursing CEUs.
How frequently do I have to take nursing CEUs?
That will depend on the state. It could be every couple of years, or it could be just once in your entire nursing career.
How many CEUs will I need to take?
Again, that depends on your state’s requirements. Some states just ask for five contact hours, while others ask for 50 contact hours (for specific licenses).
Which states don’t require CEUs for nurses?
If you’re an RN or an LPN/LVN in the following states, you don’t have to fulfill any state-mandated CEU requirements:
- South Dakota
Even so, you may not be completely off the hook; your employer may set CEU requirements of their own, which of course you’d have to follow.
Is there a difference between CEUs and contact hours?
There’s definitely a difference between the two, and you’ll be glad to know that once you’re staring down a state-mandated 30-hour requirement.
One CEU is equal to 10 contact hours; even if your state is on the higher end for required contact hours, you may not have to take that many courses.
However, you’ll have to keep an eye on how many contact hours you’ll be getting from each course; one course doesn’t always equal one CEU.
What if I end up with extra contact hours?
You may personally benefit from any knowledge gained from extra contact hours, but those hours won’t count towards the current or the next renewal period. The best way to avoid this situation is to give yourself enough time to plan your courses beforehand.
That way you can not only learn about the subjects that interest you the most, but you can also tailor them to match your state’s required number of contact hours.
The process of fulfilling your nursing CEU requirements doesn’t start with taking the courses; it starts with figuring out your state’s requirements!
Once that’s done, you’ll be better prepared to take the courses you need, and keep your nursing license current.