For healthcare providers, continuing education is a must for staying up-to-date on current practice requirements, skills, and evidence-based practice. Many institutions like hospitals, rehab facilities, and speciality centers offer in-house training and education stipends for employees to be what our leadership likes to call “lifelong learners.”
As a registered nurse, I not only take courses to keep up my skills and knowledge, but to fulfill my state’s CEU requirements to renew my license every two years. CEUs, or continuing education units, are a standardized way that state licensure boards use to keep track of the minimum requirements for healthcare providers including RNs, APRNs, and PAs.
CEUs come in classroom-style trainings, paid courses, conferences, and other unique and creative formats for every kind of learner. There are even podcasts you can listen to on your commute that count towards your CEUs.
The Continuing Education System for Healthcare Providers: Requirements for RNs vs. APRNs vs. PAs
CEUs, continuing education units, are defined by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) as “10 contact hours of participation in an organized continuing education experience under responsible sponsorship, capable direction, and qualified instruction.” Each state has different requirements for healthcare providers to maintain licensure with the state’s accreditation board. For example, in Alabama, RNs are required to complete and provide documentation for 24 contact hours (so, 2.4 CEUs) every two years. In Connecticut, RNs don’t have any CEU requirements for licensure. Here are the state-by-state requirements for RNs and APRNs.
PAs maintain their certification through the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). The NCCPA requires that PAs take an exam to re-certify every 10 years and complete 100 continuing medical education units every two years.
RN CEU Requirement Examples
Every state is different, so we are highlighting a few states and their RN continuing education requirements.
- Alabama: 24 contact hours every 2 years
- Connecticut: no CE requirements
- Montana: 24 contact hours every 2 years
- Massachusetts: 15 contact hours every 2 years
APRN CEU Requirement Examples
Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) must fulfill their state’s RN requirements along with additional hours. Here are a few state requirements for APRNs.
- Alabama: 6 of the 24 contact hours must be in pharmacology
- Connecticut: 50 contact hours in your area of practice, 5 hours in pharmacotherapeutics, and at least 1 hour each in diseases, risk management, sexual assault, domestic violence, cultural competency, and substance abuse
- Montana: for APRNs with prescriptive authority, 12 out of 24 hours must be in pharmacotherapeutics
- Massachusetts: 15 contact hours in the APRN role
PA CEU Requirements
All PAs must complete 100 CMEs every 2 years, and 50 must be Category 1.
Category 1 CMEs are defined by the American Academy of PAs (AAPA) as “clinical and professional educational activities that serve to maintain, develop or increase the knowledge, skills and professional performance that a PA uses to provide services for patients, the public and the profession.”
CNEs vs CMEs
CNEs are continuing nursing education units and CMEs are continuing medical education units. Each course is specifically tailored to their healthcare provider population and provides specialized education for their practice.
Free Ways for RNs, APRNs, and PAs to Maintain CEUs
Getting CEUs and fulfilling your state’s requirements doesn’t have to be boring, costly, or interrupt your life.
Sinead Bolze, a professional development manager in Oncology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, is always on the hunt for new and creative ways to share with her team to complete CEUs.
“I recommend starting with professional organizations within your specialty,” she tells Florence Health. “There are podcasts, webinars, and other free resources linked to their websites. You can also earn 10-15 CEUs from industry events like conferences, which are a fun opportunity to get two years of CEU requirements on a trip with colleagues to an exciting location!”
Here are seven ways to get CNE and CME credits, stay organized, and complete your renewal requirements.
Podcasts are an easy way to get credits during your commute or at the gym. Here are a few recommendations, but check within your speciality for more.
- Oncology nurses: Try the Oncology Nursing Podcast from the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) and earn CEUs while you drive, work out, or clean the house. The ONS has a section on their website offering free webinars, activities, and articles that count towards your CEU requirements.
- Primary care providers: Primary Care RAP is a podcast offering free monthly CME hours that reviews the latest research and personal experience from primary care providers.
- Pediatric providers: PediaCast from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, hosted by Dr. Mike, offers free CME credits and the perspectives of pediatric care providers.
Free online courses
Many websites like those listed below offer free online courses with CEU value. With every topic imaginable and many different formats, you can choose the pace and speciality that most interests you.
Many organizations like the Oncology Nursing Society and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) offer free webinars both live and pre-recorded which count towards your continuing education requirements.
Organizations like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society offer resources for healthcare providers to complete CNEs and CMEs for free. Many leading research institutions have the most up-to-date information and leading trials and studies.
The CDC’s Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity (COCA) division hosts conference calls to discuss public health issues, like the recent Coronavirus outbreak. Past conference calls are available online to listen to and receive CEU credits.
Use your organization’s conference stipend to earn CEUs
Many hospitals and other healthcare facilities offer conference credits as a benefit for full time employees. Sign up for a conference or seminar in your field, like the Managed Care Forum and get CEUs while learning and connecting with fellow healthcare providers.
Professional organization member benefits
For those who are members of professional organizations like the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN), member benefits often include perks like free CEUs and discounted educational courses.
A representative from the AACN explains: “One way that AACN saves on costs for CEU requirements is by offering unlimited access to our CE library as a member of our association. AACN also offers member discounts that can be applied to various services and products we offer on our website.”
No matter your lifestyle, budget, or speciality, you can easily keep up your CEU requirements, even from the comfort of your couch. Or, you can gather up some friends and go on a trip to Hawaii for a conference, completing your two year requirements in the course of a few days at the beach. Use these free CEU options to renew your RN, APRN, or PA license in any state.