What is Continuing Education (CE) in Nursing? (+ 7 Important Questions for Nurses)

What is Continuing Education (CE) in Nursing (+ 7 Important Questions for Nurses)

I’m sure you know that you need to enroll in a nursing education program to become a nurse, whether it’s an LPN, RN, or APRN. 

You need to get the proper knowledge and skills.

You can’t just wing it on the job… Lives depend on you to perform your work properly! 

So, we need a solid nursing education program…

But what is continuing education (CE) in nursing?

Does that mean the learning and training will never end?

Am I required to take that, or is it optional?

What are the consequences if I don’t? 

You probably have a lot of questions when it comes to CE in nursing, and we’re here to answer that and a few other questions.

So, if you’re ready, let’s discuss! 

What is Continuing Education (CE) in Nursing?

CE in nursing refers to your continuing development as a well-rounded, up-to-date nurse who offers safe and quality care to your patients. 

We have to remember that the nursing field is always advancing. 

As the years go by, people conduct more research, come up with new technology and medicines, standardize more procedures, and come up with new nursing laws and guidelines. 

Since all these advancements are happening year by year, the nurse also has to keep updated with these advancements.  

This is where nursing CE comes in. 

You have to make sure you aren’t outdated and that you can offer the best and safest care to your patients. 

Am I Required to Take Nursing CE?

Most states require you to take nursing CE for you to renew your license and continue working as a nurse. 

Some states even specify which nursing courses you should take, either on a one-time basis or as a requirement each time you renew your license. 

Some states, however, do not require nursing CE for renewal. 

If you want to find out the nursing CE requirements of your specific state, you can check out this page.

You can also look at the table below for a guide. 

State
(Board of Nursing)
Renewal PeriodLPN CE RequirementsRN CE RequirementsAPRN CE Requirements
Alabama (Board of Nursing)2 years24 contact hours 24 contact hours 24 contact hours (6 in pharmacology)
Alaska (Board of Nursing )2 years30 contact hours (alternate routes available) 30 contact hours (alternate routes available) 30 contact hours (alternate routes available) 
Arizona State (Board of Nursing)4 yearsNo CE required, but has other practice requirementsNo CE required, but has other practice requirementsMaintain national certification; those with DEA licenses need 3 hours of drug-related CE
Arkansas State (Board of Nursing)2 years15 contact  hours15 contact hours15 contact hours (plus 5 in pharmacology if with prescriptive authority)
California (Board of Registered Nursing) 2 years30 contact hours30 contact hoursNo additional CE requirements beyond the 30 hours needed for RN renewal
Colorado (Board of Nursing)2 yearsNoneNoneMaintain national certification plus 2 contact hours of substance use prevention training for those with prescriptive authority
Connecticut (Board of Nursing)every year2 contact hours on screening for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, risk of suicide, depression and grief, and suicide prevention training2 contact hours on screening for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, risk of suicide, depression and grief, and suicide prevention training50 contact hours
Delaware (Board of Nursing)2 years24 contact hours30 contact hoursNo additional CE requirements beyond the 30 hours needed for RN renewal
Florida (Board of Nursing)2 years24 contact hours (with specified courses)24 contact hours (with specified courses)24 contact hours (with specified courses)
Georgia (Board of Nursing)2 years20 contact hours 30 contact hours (alternate routes available)No additional CE requirements beyond the 30 hours needed for RN renewal
Hawaii (Board of Nursing)2 years30 contact hours (alternate routes available)30 contact hours (alternate routes available)30 contact hours (alternate routes available)
Idaho (Board of Nursing) 2 years15 contact hours (alternate routes available)15 contact hours (alternate routes available)30 contact hours (10 in pharmacology if with prescriptive authority)
Illinois (Board of Nursing) 2 years20 contact hours20 contact hours80 contact hours (50 in field of practice; 20 in pharmacotherapeutics; 10 in safe opioid prescription)
Indiana State (Board of Nursing)2 yearsnonenone30 contact hours (8 in pharmacology)
Iowa (Board of Nursing)3 years36 contact hours36 contact hoursMaintain RN license and national certification
Kansas (Nursing Board)2 years30 contact hours30 contact hours30 contact hours
Kentucky (Board of Nursing)every year14 contact hours14 contact hoursMaintain RN license + 5 contact hours of pharmacology
Louisiana State (Board of Nursing)2 yearsvaries30 contact hours (alternate routes available)Maintain RN license + 6 hours of pharmacotherapeutics
Maine State (Board of Nursing)2 yearsnonenoneMaintain national certification+50 contact hours 
Maryland (Board of Nursing )2 yearsNonenoneMaintain national certification
Massachusetts (Board of Registration in Nursing)2 years15 contact hours15 contact hoursMaintain national certification + 15 contact hours
Michigan (Board of Nursing) 2 years25 contact hours (with 2 in pain and symptom management)25 contact hours (with 2 in pain and symptom management)Maintain RN license + maintain national certification
Minnesota (Board of Nursing)2 years12 contact hours24 contact hoursMaintain national certification + 2 hours of prescribing opioids if with prescriptive authority
Mississippi (Board of Nursing)2 years20 contact hours20 contact hours40 contact hours (10 specific to controlled substances)
Missouri (Nursing Board)2 yearsNone noneMaintain national certification
Montana (Board of Nursing) 2 years24 contact hours24 contact hours24 contact hours (12 in pharmacotherapeutics)
Nebraska (Board of Nursing)2 years20 contact hours20 contact hours40 contact hours
Nevada State (Board of Nursing)2 years30 contact hours30 contact hours30 contact hours + 15 hours directly related to speciality
New Hampshire (Board of Nursing) 2 years30 contact hours30 contact hours60 contact hours
New Jersey (Board of Nursing)2 years30 contact hours30 contact hours30 contact hours (6 in pharmacology)
New Mexico (Board of Nursing)2 years30 contact hours30 contact hours50 contact hours (with specifications per specialty)
New York (Board of Nursing)3 yearsInfection control coursework every 4 yearsInfection control coursework every 4 yearsMaintain RN license + national certification
North Carolina (Board of Nursing)2 years30 contact hours (alternate routes available)30 contact hours (alternate routes available)50 contact hours every year
North Dakota (Board of Nursing) 2 years12 contact hours12 contact hours12 contact hours + 15 in pharmacotherapy (if with prescriptive authority)
Ohio (Board of Nursing)2 years24 contact hours24 contact hours24 contact hours for each APRN license
Oklahoma (Board of Nursing )2 years24 contact hours24 contact hours24 contact hours (15 in pharmacology)
Oregon State (Board of Nursing) 2 years2 hours of cultural competency + 1 hour of pain management specific to Oregon + a one-time requirement of 6 hours of pain management2 hours of cultural competency + 1 hour of pain management specific to Oregon + a one-time requirement of 6 hours of pain managementMaintain national certification
Pennsylvania State (Board of Nursing) 2 years30 contact hours (2 in child abuse recognition and reporting)30 contact hours (2 in child abuse recognition and reporting)30 contact hours (2 in child abuse recognition and reporting)
Rhode Island (Board of Nurse Registration)2 years10 contact hours (2 in substance abuse)10 contact hours (2 in substance abuse)10 contact hours (2 in substance abuse)
South Carolina (Board of Nursing2 years30 contact hours (alternate routes available)30 contact hours (alternate routes available)Maintain national certification; NPs, CNMs, and CNSs with prescriptive authority need 20 hours in pharmacotherapeutics
South Dakota (Board of Nursing) 2 yearsNone (but has a minimum practice requirement)None (but has a minimum practice requirement)Maintain national certification
Tennessee (Board of Nursing)2 years5 contact hours (alternate routes available)5 contact hours(alternate routes available)Maintain national certification + alternate routes 
Texas (Board of Nursing)2 years20 contact hours (alternate routes available)20 contact hours (alternate routes available)20 contact hours + 5 hours in pharmacotherapeutics for those with prescriptive authority (alternate routes available)
Utah State (Board of Nursing)2 years30 contact hours (alternate routes available)30 contact hours (alternate routes available)Maintain national certification + 30 contact hours (alternate routes available)
Vermont State (Board of Nursing)2 yearsNone (required number of work hours)None (required number of work hours)Maintain national certification + required number of work hours
Virginia (Board of Nursing)2 years30 contact hours (alternate routes available)30 contact hours (alternate routes available)40 contact hours (8 in pharmacology if with prescriptive authority)
Washington (Board of Nursing)Every year8 contact hours + practice hours (6 hours on suicide assessment, treatment and management as a one-time requirement)8 contact hours + practice hours (6 hours on suicide assessment, treatment and management as a one-time requirement)30 hours every 2 years + 15 in pharmacology if with prescriptive authority
DC (Board of Nursing)2 years18 contact hours24 contact hours24 contact hours (15 in pharmacology)
West Virginia (RN Board)varies24 contact hours every 2 years12 contact hours every year24 contact hours every 2 years
Wisconsin (Board of Nursing)2 yearsNonenoneMaintain national certification + 16 hours in clinical pharmacology
Wyoming State (Board of Nursing)2 years30 contact hours if less than 200 practice hours (alternate routes available)30 contact hours if less than 200 practice hours (alternate routes available)60 contact hours + practice hours (alternate routes available)

*Please check your state’s board of nursing website for updates

If My State Does Not Require Nursing CE, Should I Still Take It?

Yes! It’s always best to take nursing CE even if your state does not require it. 

Remember that taking nursing CE is not just about renewing your license. It’s about staying up-to-date to provide the best and safest care to your patients.

Other than that, even if your state doesn’t require it, some hospitals or other healthcare facilities may require their employees to obtain nursing CE. 

The more highly-trained and up-to-date you are, the more likely you are to land good jobs, get higher salaries, and obtain promotions. 

Besides, what if you have to move to another state that requires nursing CE? You may be able to transition more easily if you’ve been taking CE.

What are the Consequences if I Don’t Take Nursing CE?

If your state requires it and you don’t comply, then your license will be deactivated and you can no longer practice as a nurse. 

Yes, you can reactivate it within a certain timeframe… but it will cost more and be much more of a hassle.

If your state does not require it, then you won’t face any immediate consequences. 

However, you may find yourself outdated and behind your nursing colleagues in other areas. 

What Counts as Nursing CE?

Your state usually specifies what counts as approved nursing CE and what does not. 

But it should be directly related to the nursing field/practice for it to be counted.

Some examples of courses you can take include:

  • Infection control
  • Domestic abuse
  • Suicide assessment and prevention
  • Cultural awareness
  • Nursing law and ethics and professional conduct
  • Nursing advocacy
  • Clinical practice
  • Pharmacology
  • Nursing research and theory

Also, if you choose to enroll in a formal nursing education program to upgrade your license (such as LPN to RN or RN to APRN), then some of the nursing units you take may be considered CE units. 

Just make sure to check your state’s approved CE providers, and whether or not your state specifies which courses to take. 

What Does Not Count as Nursing CE?

It does not count as nursing CE if it is unrelated to nursing, or if it has to do with basic life support, orientations about an institution’s work setting, on-the-job training, nursing refresher courses, etc.

The Texas Board of Nursing gives a more comprehensive list of training that does not count as nursing CE:

  • Basic Life Support (BLS);  
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR);  
  • on-the-job training, and equipment demonstration;  
  • nursing refresher courses to ensure entry-level competencies into nursing practice;  
  • orientation programs designed to introduce employees to the philosophy, goals, policies, procedures, role expectations, and physical facilities of a specific workplace;  
  • courses that focus on self-improvement, changes in attitude, self-therapy, and self-awareness that do not delineate the impact on the nursing practice or improved patient outcomes;  
  • economic courses for financial gain 
  • courses that focus on personal appearance in nursing;  
  • liberal art courses in music, art, philosophy, and others when unrelated to patient/client care;  
  • courses designed for lay people;  
  • self-directed study/educational activities wherein the learner takes the initiative and the responsibility for assessing, planning, implementing, and evaluating the activity

Is Nursing CE Expensive? 

Although some may be expensive, this is not necessarily true for all nursing CE… You can even find some for free!

If you work for a hospital or a big facility, your employer may provide free nursing CE for all employees. 

They may also choose to sponsor your training elsewhere or give you job incentives for pursuing a nursing CE on your own. 

Your state may also provide free training, especially for mandated courses. 

Some organizations also provide free or cheaper training, often online. 

However, more specialized and in-depth training may require higher fees, but that’s also because these can improve your credentials. 

You can think of the more expensive nursing CE as an investment in your future, improving your job opportunities and salaries. 

What Should I Do with All My Nursing CE Certificates? 

Make sure to keep track of all the nursing CE you have accomplished!

Take note of the title of the course, the course provider, the identification number, the date you accomplished it, and how many CE units/contact hours were provided. 

You should also keep all the certificates (whether online or physical) as proof that you have completed these courses. 

You may be asked to submit a copy of these once you renew your license, or if your license is audited. A professional portfolio will also help you if you are seeking another job. 

Conclusion

We’ve covered a lot about nursing CE!

We found out what it is, why we need it, whether it’s required or not, whether you should take it even if your state does not require it, what the consequences are if you don’t take it, what counts and does not count as nursing CE, if it’s expensive or not, and what you should do with all your CE certificates. 

That’s a handful!

We hope you find this information helpful as you continue your nursing journey.

We wish you all the best! 

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