How Employers Benefit from Nurses’ Continuing Education
A nurse’s commitment to his or her patients is reflected in a commitment to lifetime learning. Ongoing professional development ensures that nurses are contemporary practitioners of safe and expert care. Continuing education (CE) courses not only are often required for re-licensure and certification, but also expand a nurse’s knowledge and contribute to career growth.
“With the rapidity of change in practice, equipment and technology, CE is necessary for nurses to function in a competent fashion,” remarked Bette Case DiLeonardi, PhD, RN-BC, an independent consultant who specializes in competency management and education. “CE benefits nurses by ensuring their competency in practice and increasing their commitment to their profession and practice.”
Nurses can take CE courses on a number of topics in categories such as clinical practice, leadership, policy, inter-professional education, and professional topics such as bullying, workplace violence and appropriate use of social media.
“Employers have a vested interest in promoting and making CE available to their nurses. Having employees who are up-to-date on evidence-based practices and the latest clinical developments leads to better patients outcomes,” explained Rosalind Sloan, MAEd, BSN, RN-BC, program manager/nurse planner for The Center for Continuing Education and Professional Development at the American Nurses Association (ANA). “Employers who invest in the professional development of their nurses by offering the time, resources and funds for CE courses often see increased job satisfaction among their staff and lower turnover rates.”
“Employees feel they are receiving benefit and have a sense of loyalty to the organization investing in them,” she explained. “It is always a win–win if the employer can support employees in that kind of development.”
Given that the cost of hiring and training a new nurse is in the tens of thousands of dollars, providing free-of-charge access to CE credit for nursing staff is a good investment toward decreasing employee turnover.
“When employers provide their nurses with easy access to CE, they are advancing nursing standards and practice, decreasing risk management and increasing patient satisfaction and safety,” said Nadine Salmon, RN, MSN, BSN, IBCLC, education support specialist for RN.com, an accredited provider of CE courses. “At RN.com we are promoting the highest professional standards for nursing by providing up-to-date evidence-based and clinically relevant CE courses.”
“Many organizations are pursing [ANCC] Magnet certification. Professional development opportunities and certifications for nurses both work toward meeting the requirement for Magnet status,” added DiLeonardi.
Although hospitals certainly can, and should, provide in-house professional development, training and education, online CE courses can lift some of the burden off of staff education departments that are often stretched thin.
“I frequently see that staff education departments have demands placed on them that are beyond what is reasonably achievable. Connecting with a service that provides accredited CE courses to your nurses can free education staff to focus on the needs particular to your facility,” DiLeonardi continued. “Providers of these courses are typically tuned in to the educational needs of nurses and hospitals across the country, and can offer resources that address current issues in nursing.”
Many CE providers such as RN.com also offer group discounts, content licensing and other services for healthcare employers that can be customized to the needs of their nursing staff.
“Employers can encourage staff to pursue CE through providing CE offerings on site, as well as external offerings such as conferences, webinars and educational time,” stated Nancy Davis, MSN, RN, product manager, The Center for Continuing Education and Professional Development at ANA. “They can even take it so far as to require a certain number of CE credits on an annual basis.”
“Both individual nurses and organizations should seek out accredited providers of CE courses,” recommended Davis. “Not only do most state licensure boards or certifications require accredited CE courses, but the accreditation means that the program has undergone rigorous review and met the standards for quality CE courses.”
The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is one of the most common sources for accreditation and provides a list of accredited CE providers on their website.
When choosing a CE course, Davis recommends that nurses look at the learning objectives to determine if the course helps them meet their professional goals. Sloan added that nurses should consider their learning style and needs.
“In this day and age we have many different modes of offering education,” Sloan said, adding that nurses should ask themselves: “What is the delivery method best for me? If I’m working nights, can I do this at my computer when I have downtime on the shift? Is it online, is it face to face, is it on Facebook? There are numerous ways we are creatively and uniquely delivering CE content to nurses.”
According to Salmon, the format in which online CE courses are presented can enhance the learning experience.
“At RN.com,” Salmon explained, “we endeavor to make our courses more interactive, with clickable links for more information, images, test-yourself questions within the material, did-you-know boxes and post-tests. We are working toward offering courses with voiceovers for auditory learners. We put a lot of effort into our presentation.”
“In the Institute of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s 2010 report, The Future of Nursing, one of the strong recommendations was that nurses practice to the fullest extent of their licensure,” said DiLeonardi. “Part of realizing the vision of that report is continuing education for nurses.”
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