Nursing CE Requirements in California

Nursing CE Requirements in California

Are you a nurse in California or thinking of becoming one?

Then I’m sure you’ve heard that you need continuing education (CE) to be able to renew your nursing license. 

This may seem unnecessary to you. I mean, you already completed a nursing education program and took the necessary exams to become certified or licensed, right? 

Why do you need more? 

We must remember that the medical field is always advancing. There will always be new medications, equipment, procedures, techniques, research findings, and laws.

If we stick to what we already know and don’t keep updated, we’ll eventually get left behind and outdated. 

But the question is… What are the nursing CE requirements in California?

Don’t worry! We’ll tell you all the CE requirements, whether you are a CNA, LVN, RN, or APRN. 

We’ll also answer FAQs, such as:

  • When does my license expire?
  • What do active, inactive, delinquent, and lapsed licenses mean? 
  • What counts as a nursing CE?
  • Can I complete my courses online?
  • How long does it take to complete CE courses?
  • Should I submit my certificates to the BRN?
  • Can I use the hours I earned from CE courses in another state?
  • Are there any exemptions from the CE requirements? 

We have a lot to cover! So, if you’re ready, let’s begin!

California CE Nursing Requirements – Summary

Here is a table that summarizes all the CE nursing requirements for you. 

TypeRequirement
CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant)Every 2 years

48 hours of continuing education (including in-service and continuing education hours).

– At least 12 of the 48 hours of in-service training shall be completed per year.
– 24 of the 48 hours of in-service training may be obtained through an online computer training program.

Providers must be approved by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Training Program Review Unit (TPRU).
LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse)Every 2 years

30 contact hours of CE

Providers must be approved by the California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians.
RN (Registered Nurse)Every 2 years

30 contact hours of CE

1st renewal period after being licensed – Exempt from the CE requirement, except for 1 hour of direct participation in an implicit bias course.

Providers must be approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing.
APRN (Advanced Practical Registered Nurse)
PHN (Public Health Nurse) 
Every 2 years

No additional contact hours are required, although they will have to pay the renewal fee. 

(You just need to comply with the requirements for your RN license renewal)
PMH (Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse)Every 2 years

Automatically renewed together with the RN license.

No additional fee or continuing education is required.

Now that we’ve seen a general overview of the CE requirements, let’s take a closer look at each one.

California CNA Requirements

Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) should renew their certifications every 2 years. 

To do this, they must complete 48 hours of continuing education. 

Out of the 48 hours:

  • At least 12 should be done in the first year
  • At least 12 should be done in the second year
  • A maximum of 24 hours may be obtained through an online computer training program  

Approved Providers 

You should make sure that the providers are approved by the Training Program Review Unit (TPRU) of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

You can see a list of approved providers here

Does First Aid or Basic Life Support training count as CE?

You will need to submit your certificate from these programs and have it evaluated by the CPDH. They will assess how many credit units your training will count for. 

Are college courses acceptable as CE?

Yes! If you take courses for Licensed Vocational Nurses, Registered Nurses, or Licensed Psychiatric Technician Programs, then you can be given CE credit.

You will need to submit a copy of your school transcript to verify the courses that you took. 

California LVN Requirements

Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) should renew their licenses every 2 years. 

They need 30 hours of CE to keep their licenses in active status. 

However, if it is their first renewal period since they were issued their LVN licenses, then they are not required to complete any CE. 

They must also certify that they have not been convicted of any crime since they last renewed their licenses. 

Approved Providers

Remember to always verify if the LVN CE courses you take are approved by the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians.

If not, your hours will not count or be credited. 

You can see a list of the Board’s approved providers here

California RN Requirements

Registered Nurses (RNs) should renew their licenses every 2 years. 

They need to complete 30 hours of CE to renew their licenses. 

If it is their first renewal period after being licensed, then they don’t need to complete the 30 hours. 

However, they must complete 1 hour of implicit bias training. This is a new requirement for new licensees that was implemented on January 1, 2023. 

Approved Providers

You should make sure the CE courses you take are approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing. 

You can use the BreEZe License Verification system to check the status of the provider.

Make sure their CEP number is still active. 

Allowed Courses

Many types of courses can count as contact hours, such as:

  • home study courses (which can be done independently), 
  • continuing medical education (as long as it is Category 1), 
  • College courses (as long as it is an advanced level above the level required for licensure), including:
    • advanced courses in physical, social, and behavioral sciences; 
    • basic courses in physical, social, and behavioral sciences for RNs who are obtaining a baccalaureate or graduate degree or specialty certification.
    • courses applicable to direct or indirect patient care; 
    • courses that deal with grief, human sexuality, kinesiology, nutrition, crisis intervention, counseling, stress reduction, burnout syndrome, advanced pharmacology, etc. 
  • courses approved by other entities as long as the content meets California’s Board of Nursing requirements, including those approved by:
    • the appropriate state, regional, and national health professional associations
    • other professional health and licensing boards in and out of California 

Unacceptable Courses 

The California BRN also lists the courses which do not count as CE, including:

  • self-improvement, changes in attitude, self-therapy, self-awareness, weight loss, and yoga courses 
  • economic courses for financial gain, e.g. investments, retirement, preparing resumes, techniques for job interviews, etc.
  • courses designed for lay people
  • Liberal Arts courses in music, art, philosophy, and others, when unrelated to patient/client care
  • orientation programs – activities designed to familiarize employees with the policies and procedures of an institution
  • courses that focus on personal appearance in nursing
  • CPR and BLS courses, basic EKG/dysrhythmia courses as well as basic IV courses that are similar to those used to certify licensed vocational nurses to start IVs
  • courses with identical content and objectives that are taken twice during the same renewal cycle will have their contact hours counted only once.

California APRN and PHN Requirements

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses – including Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), Certified Nurse Practitioners (CNPs), and Certified Nurse Specialists (CNSs) – do not have additional CE requirements for renewal.

This is also true for Public Health Nurses (PHNs). 

They simply have to comply with the 30 CE requirements which are needed to renew their RN licenses. But they also need to pay additional renewal fees on top of the renewal fee for their RN licenses.  

Their licenses are renewed every 2 years, on the same date as their RN licenses. 

California PMH Requirements

Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurses (PMHs) do not have any CE requirements or renewal fees. 

As long as their RN licenses are renewed, their PMH certificates will also be renewed. 

FAQs about California Nursing CE Requirements 

Now that we’ve covered the CE requirements for CNAs, LVNs, RNs, APRNs, PHNs, and PMHs in California, let’s answer some FAQs. 

When does my license expire? 

When you first receive your California RN license, that license is valid for two birthdays and will expire on the last day of the month following your birth date. 

After the first renewal period, your license will expire every two years. 

For example, if you get your first license in August 2023 and your birthday is in April, your license will expire on May 31, 2025. 

After that, your license will expire every 2 years on May 31, assuming that you always renew on time.

Renewal notices are usually mailed to you about three months before your license expiration date. However, you are still responsible for renewing your license even if you don’t receive a renewal notice. 

What do active, inactive, delinquent, and lapsed licenses mean? 

There are different terms to refer to the status of your nursing license. Let’s discuss each term.

Active License

This status is required if you want to practice as a nurse in California. You simply cannot practice if your license is not active.

To keep your license active, you need to pay the renewal fee and complete 30 hours of CE every 2 years. Make sure to renew your license on time.

Inactive License

This happens to your license if you pay the renewal fee, but don’t have 30 hours of CE. 

Your license will not be considered active and you cannot practice as a nurse in California, but you will not have to pay a delinquent renewal fee when you seek to reactivate your license. 

Delinquent License

This happens to your license if you don’t pay the renewal fee or have 30 hours of CE. 

This usually happens when you don’t want to practice nursing in California anymore. 

However, if you decide to return to nursing in California and it has been less than 8 years since your license expired, then you can still reactivate your license. You will need to pay the delinquent renewal fee and show proof of 30 hours of CE within the past 2 years. 

Lapsed License

This happens to your license if it has been more than 8 years since your license expired. 

If you want to reactivate your license from a lapsed status, you need to pay the delinquent renewal fee, show proof of 30 hours of CE, and show proof of competency to practice. 

Proof of competency to practice can be done through:

  • verification of a current active nursing license in another state or U.S territory
  • retaking the licensing exam

What counts as nursing CE in California? 

Generally, a course counts as nursing CE if it is relevant to the nursing practice. 

But the level taught in the courses should be more advanced and above what is required for licensure since it should enhance the knowledge and skills of the nurse. 

The CE courses should enhance scientific knowledge and technical skills relevant to nursing or should be related to direct or indirect patient care. 

Courses in nursing administration, education, and research are also acceptable. 

However, make sure the courses are from approved CE providers. 

Can I complete my courses online?

Yes, you can, if you are an LVN or RN! Just make sure the courses are from approved CE providers. 

There is no limit to the number of CE you can complete online. 

But if you are a CNA, you can only complete a maximum of 24 hours through an online computer training program. 

How long does it take to complete CE courses?

One contact hour refers to 50-60 minutes. 

So, 30 contact hours refers to about 25-30 hours of instruction or training. 

You don’t need to complete this all in one go. You have 2 years to complete this and you can go at it at your own pace if you choose to. 

What do I do with my certificates? 

The BRN conducts random audits of RNs to check their compliance with the CE requirements. 

Keep the certificates or grade slips you earned for four years as proof of your CE completion in case you will be audited!

Can I use the hours I earned from CE courses in another state?

Yes, as long as the content meets the BRN’s requirements as specified in Title 16, California Code of Regulations, Section 1456

Are there any exemptions from the CE requirements? 

There are a few instances when nurses can be exempt from the CE requirements for renewal of their licenses. 

These apply to:

  • New licensees during the first two years of being licensed, except for the Implicit Bias requirement
  • Licensees who are requesting an inactive license status
  • Licensees who have been employed overseas for a period of 1 or more years 
  • Licensees who are employed by a Federal Institution or Agency or by the U.S. Military (see Renewal Fee Waiver for Active Duty Military Personnel)
  • Licensees who have gone through hardship of one or more year’s duration, such as total personal physical disability or total disability of an immediate family member for whom the licensee has complete responsibility

Conclusion 

Phew! We’ve covered a lot of ground!

Now we know the CE requirements for different types of nurses in California. We’ve also answered a lot of relevant questions related to CE. 

We saw that CE is important, but it doesn’t have to be hard or stressful to gain enough CE points. There are many options online that you can do at your own pace. 

Just make sure to keep proof of certificates or grades for four years in case you will be audited by the BRN. 

We hope you can use this as a guide while navigating the ins and outs of CE.

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