Nurses are licensed by the states they practice in. Some states have a requirement that nurses take continuing education courses to maintain their license. These courses are called "continuing education units" or CEUs, and they are intended to keep the nurse informed and educated about new medical advances, nursing standards and patient care practices. There are a variety of ways to fulfill continuing education requirements. However, the most important aspect of a continuing education class is whether the class is accredited by the licensing state. If a class is accredited, it will be accepted toward a continuing education requirement; however, if a class is not accepted a nurse will have to complete additional hours to maintain licensure.
Registered nurses do not have a requirement for continuing education in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Every other state has some sort of requirement for registered nurses.
Advanced Practice Nurses
Advanced practice nurses generally have more stringent requirements for continuing education. Only Arizona does not have an additional requirement. All other states require national certification, and many require additional contact hours beyond those required of a registered nurse.
Many CEUs can be taken online. The amount of credit toward a continuing education requirement will vary by state, according to the state's regulations. Further, some classes may not be accepted in all states. At the bottom of this article is a website that lists each state and their requirements. Most online testing websites will also list the contact hours or CEU a class counts for in each state. If there are any questions, contact the state licensing board to ensure the class is accepted.
Many conferences have training and informative sections that count towards continuing education requirements. These conferences are organized in every state, and even take place on cruise ships or internationally. Again, though the organization hosting the conference should know whether the class can be applied toward a continuing education requirement in a particular state, and how many hours it counts for, if there are any questions it is important to contact the home state licensing board.
Some states allow nurses that are currently practicing nurses to reduce or meet their continuing education requirement. However, most still have at least a few contact hours to ensure nurses are updated with new practice techniques.
Most nurses can get the majority of their continuing education classes paid by their employer, whether at conferences or online. Aside from that, there are a number of low-cost programs available online, and some are even free.