Regardless of your field of expertise, if you’re a nurse, you must complete Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to maintain your licensure. Sure, CEUs can be a bit of a pain. Tracking them down, completing them and maintaining proof of what you’ve done is a hefty task. Use this guide to make the process run smoothly, so you can get back to what really matters – caring for your patients.
1. Tune Your Perspective
While hopping online to find some “easy” CEUs might sound like the way to go, expanding your knowledge in a way that improves your practice is how you can truly take advantage of the benefit of this requirement. Can you imagine healthcare without providers having to complete continuing education? We’d have seasoned nurses still using rotating tourniquets to treat CHF. Is that a world you want to live and work in? If your answer is no, then start tuning your perspective to see CEU requirements as a benefit from your nursing board and/or facility.
2. Know Your State’s CEU Requirements
Each state determines its requirements for nursing CEU hours. Depending on where you’re licensed, you must provide proof that you’ve worked a certain number of hours, completed various continuing education hours, and completed education related to specific topics, such as child abuse, or simply completed requirements set by your facility. With so many variables, it’s important to know your specific requirements. Vivian has a great Certification tool for learning exactly what you need to do.
Once you know what the state requires, inquire about any education your workplace deems necessary. Just beware: Unless specifically stated, education mandated and provided by your workplace won’t meet state requirements to be counted as CEUs. If it does, they should issue a certificate of completion or contact hours certificate for proof.
3. Accreditation Matters
It’s important to know that accreditation counts in CEU choice. States that require CEUs and most facilities with similar requirements insist that education comes from an accredited source. The most common accreditation organization is the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) As the most widely recognized provider, they’ve reviewed most CEUs on major websites. When choosing your educational units, always look for verbiage indicating that the ANCC approves it before you start.
4. Don’t Wait
In the past, you may have found yourself waiting until the very last minute to complete your CEUs, like the moment you receive a reminder email from human resources that you need to renew your license in the next 90 days. However, you’ll find that getting them done ahead of time is much less anxiety-producing. Scheduling yourself to complete them quarterly is a wonderful way to stay on track.
For instance, if your state requires 30 hours of education biannually, complete 4 hours each quarter to ensure you’re always on track to have 30 done on time. Not only that, you’ll likely find that you have more done than you need while staying up to date on new research.
Remember: Depending on your state, you might need upwards of 36 contact hours of education. Trying to finish all those hours at the last minute can be a real headache!
5. Utilize Paid Services
Utilizing a paid service is probably one of the easiest ways to complete your CEUs. These websites allow you to pay a fee (most are around $40-$50) to gain access to a plethora of available CEUs you can complete on your own schedule. Once complete, you have the option to print the completion certificate for your records easily. This route lets you enjoy having all your CEUs available in one place, with the option to save all your certificates within the site, as well.
6. Find the Freebies
On a budget? It’s possible to complete all your CEUs online for FREE. But the operative word is “possible.” If you’re a frugal-minded nurse and still need to finish your education requirements, you’ll have to put in some extra work in order to do it on the cheap.
Most paysites offer a handful of free education units, but you might not find the topics you’re interested in. The other downfall is that sometimes the small print informs you that you can complete the CEU but won’t receive the certificate needed for the state unless you pay up! If you’re not careful, you could waste precious hours on CEUs that you don’t have proof of completing.
That being said, you can find freebies, as long as you’re willing to maintain proof on your own (because who wants to save all those passwords for the future?) Field-specific organizations, such as the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and MJHS Institute for Innovation in Palliative Care, offer CEUs throughout the year on their website. Some colleges, such as the University of Pittsburgh, offer CEUs, often specific to their state’s requirements.
Personally, this is typically the route I take. I watch for CEUs of interest to me throughout the year that are also offered for free. Although $40 may not seem like much, if the savings are worth it, you can make it happen with a little legwork.
7. Utilize Your Employee Benefits
Depending on the size of the organization you work for, you may find a great deal of CEUs available as an employment benefit! While many employers inform you of upcoming opportunities to complete education credits, there might be more available than you realize. Some organizations pay for their employees to have access to online CEU applications year-round to encourage them to stay educated and keep their licenses up to date.
If you’re unsure about this benefit, ask your direct supervisor. If they’re unsure, reach out to the human resources or benefits department. They may be able to tell you more. Personally, I’ve found that some nursing supervisors just aren’t aware of this great benefit, even though it’s there.
TIP: If you’re a travel nurse on contract at a facility, don’t be too shy to ask about this benefit. If your agency doesn’t offer it to you, sometimes the facility will approve you to have a sign-in during your contract period.
8. Ditch the Screens
If you’re a nurse who just isn’t down with all things technology, I see you! It’s possible to complete your CEUs at home with printed copies of the courses. NetCE offers CEUs via snail mail. It’s as easy as requesting the booklets for the CEUs you want, and mailing in payment along with your tests to receive mailed copies of your certificates. While it might take a little longer than the online options, it allows you to keep a written copy of the courses for reference and enjoy a break from the litany of screen time we’re exposed to.
9. Have a Little Fun
The whole purpose of completing CEUs is to keep you updated on what’s new and interesting in the world of medical care. While it’s common to believe that this means you must do all your CEUs on topics pertaining to your field of work, that’s simply not the case. In fact, you can do your CEUs on any medical topic as long as it’s approved for your license.
For instance, if you work in the mental health field, completing education on mental health topics is a great idea. But, it’s okay to read up on new and interesting advances in pain management or infection control if you find those subjects fascinating. In fact, I encourage you to do so! Step out of your comfort zone and have a little fun with your CEUs. Learn something new and you might even realize that you have career aspirations outside your current field.
10. Maintain Good Records
Maintaining proof of CEU completion in an organized manner is probably one of the most important things you can do for your sanity! For 5 years after you’ve done them, the state can request to view proof that what you’ve attested to is true. If you fail to produce said proof, you could be in for some hefty fines or even have your license threatened.
It’s taken some time, but I’ve created an easy system to maintain my records appropriately without hoarding said paperwork for the next 40 years! Each year, I label a standard manila envelope with the year and each certificate of completion I earn that year goes right into the envelope. I keep a running tally on the outside of the envelope of how many hours I have completed thus far. Every sixth year, I toss the oldest envelope as I create my new one. If you can maintain a similar system, you’ll always have your CEU proof readily available and avoid having tons of paper clutter to manage.
Learn CEU requirements for registered nurse license renewals in every state using Vivian Health’s Licensing Guides.