Contact hours and continuing education units (CEUs) allow the RN to further his or her education and keep up-to-date with new and exciting developments in the nursing field. Completing continuing education activities demonstrates a nurse who is excited to learn more about nursing and stay current with the changing dynamics of the field. Seeking out and completing nursing education is a great way for both experienced and inexperienced nurses to gain new knowledge as well as build upon knowledge and skills already mastered.

In many States continuing education is required to renew RN and LPN licensure as well as for certification renewal.

Why Is Continuing Education Important for RNs?

It is very important for nurses to continue learning, whether or not it is required for RN licensure or certification renewal. Some great reasons for this include:

  • Staying current with new research and developments
    • A great way to find out what is new in nursing is to find the most current topics of continuing education
  • Reinforcing an eager and humble attitude towards nursing education as years of experience grow
    • Continuing education promotes a healthy attitude of learning by showing the RN something he or she may not already know
  • Passing along information to other nurses in the workplace so everyone can learn
    • When one RN in the workplace learns something new and exciting it's hard not to share with everyone else!
  • Practicing lifelong learning supports the beliefs of many professional healthcare organizations
    • Below is the vision statement endorsed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Board of Directors and the Association of American Medical Colleges Council of Deans Advisory Board in 2009 and published by the American Nurses Credential Center’s Commission on Accreditation (ANCC) in the Lifelong Learning in Medicine and Nursing Conference Report.

"We envision a continuum of health professional education from admission into a health professional program to retirement that values, exemplifies, and assesses lifelong learning skills; emphasizes interprofessional and team-based education and practice; employs tested, outcomes-based continuing education methods; and links health professional education and delivery of care within the workplace. To achieve this vision, we encourage an understanding of and support for the need for change, and collaboration among stakeholders responsible for the interdependent elements of this vision – academic institutions, healthcare systems, continuing education providers, accrediting bodies, licensing and credentialing boards, funders, and others."

The professional community supports lifelong learning of nurses and to help achieve that they support educational and leadership organizations who offer nursing education.

What Is the Difference Between Contact Hours and Continuing Education Units?

The term "contact hour" is used by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation (ANCC) to define nursing continuing educational units. Organizations who are accredited by the ANCC often use this term instead of CEUs.

  • A CEU is defined as "10 contact hours"
  • A contact hour is defined as "50-60 minutes of instruction in a board-approved nursing CE class or activity"

Am I Required to Complete Contact Hours or CEUs?

Only some States require continuing education to maintain licensure. In those States, the certification of completion as proof of completing contact hours or a signed affidavit of completion are required when the nurse renews his or her license.

For nurses who hold certifications within his or her specialty, such as the CCRN certification in critical care nursing, contact hours are required to renew.

Does My State Require Contact Hours or CEUs For License Renewal?

Check with the State Board of Nursing to find out if continuing education is required in your State. Because requirements may change, please click on the link to your state:

Where Can I Find Continuing Education Activities?

Many organizations offer continuing education activities. Some are even required for RN employment. Required certifications, such as the Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) courses usually offer CEUs or contact hours upon completion. For most nurses at least the BLS is required to for employment.

Any approved and accredited course will offer continuing education credits and these can be used to satisfy State requirements as well. Any continuing education course taken during a renewal period will count towards all renewals. Some certifications, such as the CCRN, require continuing education activities in certain areas to meet renewal requirements. So always check the renewal requirements for each certification.

Continuing education may be required for RN license renewal depending on the State and is usually required to maintain professional certifications. It also helps the RN build on knowledge and learn something new which helps keep a humble attitude as years of experience grow. Lifelong learning is supported by professional healthcare organizations as well as supporting the organizations which offer education. So even if it's not required, find something to new to learn about!

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