Nursing is a physically and mentally demanding profession. At the end of the day, nurses deserve a break, but for the sake of your career and patients, it’s important to stay current on patient care skills, industry changes, and nursing technique and practices. The principal way to accomplish this is through continuing education (CE).
Different states, different rules
Unfortunately, the sea of CE options and requirements can be confusing, especially for new practitioners. Requirements vary by state; for instance, some states like North Dakota do not mandate CE at all, while others, like California, require 30 hours every two years.
Specialties have various additional requirements. For instance, a GI a nurse certification is valid for five years, based on the month of initial licensing. To maintain the credential, gastroenterology nurses can take the current certification examination or apply for recertification by completing 100 contact hours of continuing education; 80 those must be specific to gastroenterology.
The most prolific provider of continuing education units (CEUs) is the American Nurses Association Certification Corporation (ANCC); they sanction state nursing associations and major specialty organizations to offer CE. Some for-profit companies are also authorized. To get credit, nurses must acquire CEUs through workshops and seminars approved by the ANCC.
There are advertisements for CE in most major nursing journals. Professional seminars, online webinars, correspondence courses, colleges, and other industry events administered by approved entities are other options. Take a look at these examples of general and speciality nurse CE:
- In the past, hospitals and even private practices routinely paid for nurses to attend annual conferences like the SGNA Annual Course. A key benefit of these events is the ability to earn a substantial amount of specialty-specific CEUs (up to 34.25 for SGNA) in one place, at one time. In addition, the opportunity to network with (and learn from) colleagues and experts in the field is unmatched. The downside is the expense. The days of healthcare organizations picking up the bill are over. If you add up the cost of registration, travel, and lodging, a nurse can end up paying thousands of dollars to attend one conference.
- Regional conferences can be easier on the wallet, especially if they do not require an overnight stay. Keep in mind that these meetings usually do not offer as many CEUs as national conferences. For instance, at the Eastern North Carolina SGNA (ENCSGNA) annual conference, attendees can earn a total of 10.5 CEUs (nine of which are specific to GI). And regional events are typically more affordable. The 2019 ENCSGNA conference ran two days, included all meals, and cost $60.
- While online education does not allow nurses to connect face-to-face with peers, it does eliminate travel expenses. In fact, some of the training itself is free.
- To learn about general nursing CEUs (with some speciality-specific training), browse these sites:
- Some vendors offers speciality CEUs. For instance, Olympus University trains nurses, technicians, and other staff on GI-specific topics, for example, reprocessing flexible endoscopes and surgical instruments to reduce the risk of cross contamination. Training is available through webinars, online courses, and also via live sessions.
- AORN (The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses) provides a wide variety of education opportunities, and 200 online CEUs are included with membership. Courses range from "Guidelines for Safe Patient Handling and Movement" to "AORN Guidelines for Processing Flexible Endoscopes."
Like being a member of AORN, joining a state nursing association typically includes access to discounted CEUs. For GI nurses specifically, SGNA allows member to take part in its programs and training at a reduced rate.
Nurses at facilities that do not reimburse for events like national conferences should request that management offer in-house training. Vendors, other accredited organizations, and even the facilities themselves can provide on-site training so that nurses and other staff can learn and earn credit together, without leaving work. Depending on the quality of training, this investment can result in a significant return on investment for hospitals. For instance, if a safe patient handling (SPH) workshop can save one back injury a year, it is well worth the cost. Plus, employers who invest in their staff are typically rewarded with more satisfied and productive employees.
The last word
In most cases, there is no need to submit proof of CE completion for recertification. However, in the event of an audit, nurses must present original certificates of completion, contact hour certificates, or official academic transcripts. Prepare for this possibility by setting up a reliable filing system for hard copy and/or online documents.