General Education

What Makes a Nursing CEU Different from Other CE Courses?

With the general purpose of a CE (Continuing Education) course being to further someone’s professional knowledge or skills, it isn’t too hard to grasp what a nursing CEU would be for. That being said, there are some technicalities involved in understanding what exactly constitutes a nursing CEU. The main difference between these CEUs and general CEs is that nursing CEUs require specific accreditation in order to count. Without this, a CE course (whether or not it’s topically related to nursing) won’t go towards a nurse’s CEU requirements.

As it happens, there are quite a few other requirements for nursing CEUs. Jumping through all the hoops can be tricky if a nurse is putting together their own CE curriculum, which is why services like are so helpful. Not only do they offer free accredited nursing CEUs, but they also assist nurses in choosing the correct courses to fulfill their states’ requirements.

What makes a nursing CEU different from a regular CE course?

There’s plenty of red tape to get through if you’re trying to fulfill your nursing CEU requirements, which is why it’s a good idea to know what you’re doing beforehand.

  • Nursing CEU requirements vary by state

Let’s say you’re a business professional, and you want to show your boss that you’re dedicated to not just your job, but to your career. To prove it, you take a CE course that adds to the skills you already have. You get to choose the course, based on its relevance to your personal goals.

Now let’s say you’re a nurse, and you’ll be required to take CEU courses in order to maintain your license. To start out with, this means that you’re practicing in a state where nursing CEUs are required; not all states mandate CEUs for nurses. Here are the states that don’t require nurses to complete CEUs:

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Maine
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin

Next, there are the questions of how many CEUs are needed, and which topics have to be covered. Again, this will vary by state; some simply mandate a minimum number of contact hours, while others specify the topics that some of those contact hours have to cover. A quick note for clarification: one CEU is equal to 10 contact hours.

Lastly, there’s the mandated frequency of CEUs for nurses. Some states require them to be completed every two years, while others ask nurses to complete CEUs only one time during their nursing career.

Just because a CE course would be professionally beneficial doesn’t mean it counts as a nursing CEU

If you’re ever wondering whether or not a course would count towards your nursing CEUs, there’s really only one reliable way to find out: ask your state’s board of nursing. They’re the main authority in determining which courses get accredited, so without their approval, the course you’re considering would only count towards your personal edification. Here are some of the courses that seem like they might count, but actually don’t:

  • CPR courses
  • Advanced lifesaving courses
  • Continuing Medical Education (CME) courses – they’re only meant for medical professionals such as doctors or dentists
  • Orientation programs, internships, on-the-job training, or workplace programs for nurses
  • Conventions or seminars, even if they focus on nursing-related topics (some are accredited CEUs, but this isn’t a given)
  • Any courses or college courses that don’t pertain to the field of nursing

A few things to keep in mind when selecting your nursing CEU courses

Since there are more than a few technicalities involved in choosing the right CEUs, it helps to start by getting a little background information.

  • One mistake that’s made pretty frequently is to procrastinate on completing required CEUs until you just can’t put it off any longer. Once you’ve gotten to that point, you pretty much have to take what’s being offered. This could mean signing up for expensive courses, or taking CEUs that aren’t relevant to your skillset; it also usually involves cramming until the last minute so that everything gets done on time. After all, this is something you have to do in order to keep your nursing license current, so cramming is the best of several bad options. This generally entails a lot of stress, plus the likelihood that you’ll forget most of what you learned within a few weeks. Moral of the story: plan way ahead to keep from getting stuck in this scenario.
  • LVN or LPN nursing licenses require different CEUs than RN nursing licenses, so make sure you check the regulations before signing up for any courses.
  • As mentioned previously, the state board of nursing establishes which courses get accredited as CEUs. The ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center) also establishes accreditation.
  • Sometimes you might come across a CEU course that grabs your attention, but doesn’t necessarily count towards your CEU requirements. Even though you don’t have to take it, you should consider enrolling anyway. Just because it isn’t required doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from taking the course!
  • CEU courses are available at many different price points; they can be free, or they can be several thousand dollars. If you’re having a hard time finding the courses you want for the prices you prefer, it may be that currently available courses are already full, or that you simply aren’t looking in the right places. You may be able to find free courses through your place of work, and there are many more available online.
  • If you accidentally end up taking courses with overlapping material, some of those contact hours may not count. Plus, the extra contact hours won’t roll over to the next license renewal period – another reason why careful planning pays off.

The takeaway

If you’re a nurse who will be required to fulfill CEU requirements, there are several details to consider before enrolling for a course. You have to make sure it’s accredited, ensure that it matches your state’s requirements, and hopefully pick something that moves you closer to your career goals as well.

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