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The advantages of continuing education for nurses and patients

by Melissa Bell
14 minutes read
continuing education for nurses

In any field, professionals may opt for further training to upskill, specialize or change career paths. Nurses are different. For most, returning to education is about improving the care they provide to patients rather than pure career development. Nurses commit to providing the best possible care when qualifying, and continuing education (CE) is one way to ensure patient care remains the top priority. 

Not only do they firm up existing skills, but they also broaden their knowledge and acquire more tools to help people. Further education options are abundantly available to nurses. They may train to specialize in a nursing field or expand their knowledge base for general nursing. 

In the US, many states stipulate that nurses periodically participate in some type of further education. Nurses can engage in specialty training, participate in seminars or conferences to earn continuing education unit credits or engage in other CE programs. 

This article examines why every nurse must prioritize continuing education, listing the benefits and outlining the value to patients on the frontline. It also provides an overview of the educational pathways open to nurses. 

The importance of continuing education in nursing

Against a backdrop of continuous medical advancement, further education for nurses is essential. Generally, when nurses return to education, everyone along the healthcare chain benefits. 

Firstly, nurses broaden their knowledge and upskill. Secondly, patients benefit from better care, and lastly, co-workers and healthcare colleagues can work with someone who cares enough to continue training and brings an expanding skill set to the table. 

Any professional must brush up on basic skills they learned at college. For nurses, doing so is crucial because they face many life-and-death situations. Continuing education is vital to patient safety, meaning dwindling skills may put people at risk. As medicine evolves and new knowledge may demand changing aspects of patient care, nurses must stay abreast of all medical developments.

CE has become such a central part of nursing that states now specify the number of CE hours nurses must complete to maintain their license. Some nursing boards also dictate course topics, withholding licensure if a nurse does not comply. While most states require nurses to continue their education, some state nursing boards have no such regulations.

It is important to note that not all courses translate into CE credits. Before enrolling in a course, find out the state board’s regulations. As a rule, CE providers must have the state nursing board’s approval before they are in a position to award CE contact hour credits. 

The benefits of nurses continuing education for RNs and specialty nurses

There are multiple reasons why CE is one of the cornerstones of a nursing career. Continuing education can benefit registered nurses in many ways, aside from continually improving patient care and safety. 

Keeping nursing licensure up to date

Most states require nurses to continue training. Nursing boards only renew licenses if nurses earn continuing education credits. Nurses wanting to work in a clinical setting must comply to maintain their certification and license.

Employers thus ensure that nurses keep up with medical innovations while consolidating fundamental nursing skills and knowledge. Healthcare settings are subject to scrutiny and responsible for the quality of care that staff provide. Therefore, they must make sure that they provide quality care in line with patient safety and the latest best-practice principles. 

Bolstering existing skills

Continuing education means refreshing the skills acquired during general and specialty nursing training. During CE, nurses can brush up on knowledge and eliminate errors that may have crept in. They can review their care protocols and realign them with best care practices. 

No matter how good the quality of care is that nurses provide, patient care will likely deteriorate without continuing education. Nurses’ skill sets are so broad that only intermittent training can guarantee nurses stay sharp and capable of delivering outstanding patient care. 

Staying up to date with healthcare industry trends

Patient care is continually evolving, with new medical advances feeding in all the time. Continuing education is the best way to stay in touch with the latest improvements in care. In general nursing and all specialties, nurses must keep up to date with the latest trends for the benefit of their patients.

As nurses collaborate with colleagues, they must ensure they never fall behind in knowledge and skill development. Slipping standards and lack of knowledge may reduce the quality of care provided not only by individual nurses but by entire medical teams. 

Broadening one’s skill set

As new technology becomes available and further research shapes patient care, continuing education allows nurses to broaden their skill sets. They acquire the capabilities to perform newly discovered treatments while improving the quality of the clinical care they provide. 

Most new medical treatments require nurses to broaden their knowledge and learn new skills. Nurses may also learn how to tweak patient care methods in line with the latest medical insights. 

Learning about the latest treatment regimens

New treatments and drugs come on stream constantly, meaning nurses must keep training to learn how to administer new medications and deliver the latest treatment regimens. Best practice in patient care keeps evolving, which makes continuing training a prerequisite. Besides, continuing training is essential when using the latest technology or new medical devices. 

Medical discoveries impact both the disease process and the delivery of patient care, meaning a new experience and healing path for hospital patients and healthcare staff. 

Boosting earning potential

As nurses upskill, they raise their earning potential. The best-paid positions are available to more highly trained staff, making continuing education not only a good professional but also a wise financial choice. 

Like in all job markets, employers select candidates showing excellent qualifications, extensive experience and dedication. A high total of continuing education credits may translate into a better-paid, more exciting job. 

Becoming a stand-out member of a team

Diversified training sets nurses apart from their colleagues, establishing them as a trusted authority. In any healthcare team, the most knowledgeable and skilled staff members become de-facto leaders other staff members consult and respect. 

Thus, continuing education transforms nurses into role models whose expertise and support are invaluable to patients, doctors and nursing staff.

Burnout prevention

CE plays a crucial role in protecting nurses from burnout. Nursing can be stressful with the daily workload and emotional turmoil it entails. Engaging in training provides nurses the opportunity to take a step back from the frontline, reassess their values, and recoup their strength and motivation.

Training environments also allow nurses to exchange experiences away from the everyday hustle and bustle of a busy healthcare setting. CE then becomes an empowering ‘time-out’ for nurses that serves to destress and rejuvenate. 

The benefits of nurses’ continuing education for patients

For patients, the best nurses are professional, knowledgeable, skillful and kind. They continually strive to excel in providing care. When someone is in hospital, they depend on nurses to be capable of delivering quality care. The more extensive and recent the training, the better the care that patients enjoy. 

Patients rely on nurses to keep up with medical innovations. Patients also appreciate nurses who continually sharpen and expand their skill sets. They are vulnerable and have no choice but to entrust themselves to healthcare staff. As a result, any continuing training is of significant benefit to patients, regardless of the seriousness of their illness.

Some continuing education programs deliver a better understanding of patient issues. One example is further training in domestic violence which prepares nurses to understand related issues better and enables them to provide more multi-layered support. Any topic nurses acquire more skills or knowledge in relates to a patient group with differentiated needs and delivers improved patient outcomes accordingly.  

The benefits of nurses continuing education for healthcare providers

Healthcare providers seek out and value highly trained staff. For starters, they raise the level of patient care quality, and secondly, they bolster the reputation of the facility. With patient welfare the top priority, many employers encourage nurses to engage in further training, even beyond the scope required by the state’s nursing board. 

Legally, healthcare facilities must be able to guarantee all clinical staff are highly trained to prevent costly lawsuits. Healthcare laws in many states make continuing education compulsory, meaning providers can only work with CE-compliant staff. Healthcare providers will choose a nurse who is highly trained over someone who does not have the same level of training. 

The benefits to healthcare management are multifold and include prestige patient care, a stellar reputation, and the assurance that staff members are knowledgeable, highly skilled and up to date with developments in patient care. 

Such is the importance of continuing education in nursing that many healthcare providers encourage it by adjusting work schedules and making training finance available in some cases. 

Nursing education options

With abundant continuing education programs available to nurses, honing in on one’s career goals and determining their state’s CE requirements is the best place to start. 

Depending on the chosen course, it can be studied online, in person, or a blended version. The online option is exceedingly popular among nurses as it allows them to juggle work, family life and CE. Courses like the doctoral nursing programs online propel nurse’s careers forward by delivering accredited education remotely. 

The Wilkes University FNP program equips registered nurses with advanced skills and knowledge necessary to provide primary healthcare to individuals of all ages and their families. It focuses on diagnosing and managing common illnesses, promoting health and wellness, and providing comprehensive care.

Bodies like the CDC offer various continuing education programs for nurses, as do organizations like the American Heart Association. 

Once one has completed the courses selected by their state — and remember not all states specify topics — they can proceed to earn credits studying their favorite subjects. 

One approach is to choose a specialty with a view to graduating with one of the following specialty qualifications: 

  • Cardiac nurse
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Critical care nurse
  • ER nurse
  • Family nurse practitioner
  • Geriatric nurse
  • Perioperative nurse
  • Mental health nurse
  • Nurse educator
  • Nurse manager
  • Midwifery nurse
  • Oncology nurse
  • Nursing administrator
  • Orthopedic nurse
  • Pediatric nurse
  • Travel nurse
  • Public health nurse
  • Forensic nurse

In terms of earning potential and career advancement, specializing is an excellent option, especially if one is passionate about caring for a specific patient group. They are then in a position where they pursue their ambitions while effortlessly earning the CE credits they need. 

Apart from patient-focused CE programs, nurses can also receive further training and earn credits in workplace-related areas, including workplace impairment, workplace accident prevention and prevention of errors in care delivery. 

Who pays for CE?

When it comes to the cost of continuing education programs, prices vary from provider to provider. The good news is that people can earn credits free of charge. Many employers either share the costs or cover them outright. Large hospitals may offer accredited programs on-site. Government associations, nursing associations and nurse training colleges also provide free approved CE programs. 

Those wanting to enroll in an expensive program can explore the nursing scholarship route in continuing education. 

Continuing education in nursing benefits everyone

Unsurprisingly, many nurses choose further training even in states that do not task nurses with CE. Everyone benefits along the healthcare chain, including patients, relatives, colleagues, doctors, employers and nurses. 

Top-quality patient care, more motivation, less stress and improved care delivery by entire healthcare teams are just some of the many multilayered advantages of continuing education.

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