The Nurse’s Comprehensive Guide to Continuing Education

The Nurse’s Comprehensive Guide to Continuing Education

Learn about free ongoing education options for nurses, including the necessary requirements and available courses. Even after you’ve obtained your nursing degree and passed the National Council Licensure Exam, your education journey isn’t over. Nursing is an ever-evolving field, and as a nurse, you need to keep learning throughout your career to ensure the best care for your patients. That’s why most states require nurses to engage in continuing education (CE) to maintain their nursing license. This ensures that you stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in nursing practices.

Explore the prerequisites for continuing education in nursing, the various types of ongoing education, and discover ways to access free education courses for nurses.

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Understanding Ongoing Education in Nursing

To qualify as ongoing education for nurses, CE must be organized and provided by accredited institutions. You can find CE opportunities through professional nursing associations, nursing schools, course directories, or peer-reviewed publications. The right CE choice for you depends on your professional focus and career aspirations.

Once you find an opportunity that interests you, enroll and participate in the course or conference. If you’re reading a peer-reviewed article, you might need to take a test afterward. Other providers might document your attendance. Keep track of your hours for reporting.

Most states mandate CE to maintain your nursing license, though the number of required hours varies. Some states also specify CE in particular subjects. Consult your state’s nursing board to understand the ongoing education requirements for nurses in your state.

The Significance of Ongoing Education for Nurses

CE ensures that you stay informed about and apply the latest developments in nursing care. It also provides protection to healthcare institutions from legal liabilities. Additionally, CE can help you enhance your skills for your future career growth.

Ongoing education courses for nurses cover a range of topics similar to those encountered in nursing school. These topics include medicine, health promotion, communication and leadership, as well as the legal and ethical aspects of nursing. Regardless of your role, CE contributes to your expertise.

Different Forms of Continuing Education

– Annual requirements for healthcare employees
– CE mandated by state for nurses
– Activities for professional development

Formats of Ongoing Education

– Attending conferences
– Participating in in-person classes
– Taking online courses
– Joining online and live webinars
– Utilizing self-study educational materials

Providers of Nursing Continuing Education Courses

You can access ongoing education courses from a variety of nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

– Abbott Nutrition Health Institute Courses
– This nonprofit offers free ongoing education for nurses through online courses focused on nutrition, including topics like infant nutrition and nutrition after surgery.
– provides free ongoing education courses for nurses, covering subjects related to careers and nursing practice. Most courses offer credit for one or 1.5 hours.

– The Institute for Johns Hopkins Nursing Courses
– Johns Hopkins offers both free and paid online courses on specific conditions such as HIV and multiple sclerosis, as well as general nursing practice.
– This website features lists of continuing education unit (CEU) courses, including a section on free ongoing education for nurses. You can search for courses based on specific topics.
– This site offers unlimited CEU courses for an annual fee of $19.95. The topics range from preparing for bioterrorism and understanding medical errors to addressing specific health conditions.

Paying for Ongoing Education

The cost of ongoing education varies widely, from free options to courses that cost several hundred dollars. Many employers cover or share the cost of ongoing education for nurses. Some large hospitals, especially academic medical centers, may provide education themselves or subscribe to services that deliver online CE for nurses. Others may reimburse your expenses. If your employer doesn’t cover CE costs, numerous nursing associations and nonprofits offer nursing scholarships.

Alternatives to Meeting Ongoing Education Requirements

Numerous professional conferences can fulfill the ongoing education requirements for nurses. Make sure to check the conference details to know the credit hours and documentation process. You can also read professional literature and pass a test. Confirm whether passing the test meets the CE requirements.

CEU Accreditation

Similar to accrediting nursing schools, CEU accreditation ensures that ongoing education courses for nurses offer reliable, evidence-based information and are presented in an appropriate format. You can find accredited programs through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or through providers you trust, like professional associations. Check if the courses meet the ongoing education requirements for nurses.

State-specific Ongoing Education Requirements for Nursing

Each state has its own distinct requirements for ongoing education for nurses. Below is the number of contact hours required to maintain licensing in each state. Many states include additional requirements or accept alternative forms of education, such as a refresher course. Consult your state’s nursing board for detailed information.

Commonly Asked Questions About Continuing Nurse Education

How can I access free nursing CE?

You can access free ongoing education for nurses from various sources, including nursing schools, nursing associations, or government organizations. Your employer might also provide free courses or assist with fees.

What qualifies as CEUs for nurses?

CEUs must be accredited by recognized organizations such as the ANCC or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Courses, conferences, and webinars are common sources of ongoing education for nurses.

What’s the difference between contact hours, continuing medical education (CME), and CEUs?

One contact hour equals 60 minutes of learning. One CME is equivalent to one contact hour. However, one CEU equals 10 contact hours. Review the course descriptions for ongoing education courses for nurses to ensure which credit they offer.

How can I quickly earn


Online asynchronous courses, which you can take at any time within a specific timeframe, are often the quickest way to meet ongoing education requirements for nurses if you’re close to your license renewal deadline. You can find a wide variety of courses on websites like or the Institute for Johns Hopkins Nursing Courses.

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