A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with a graduate degree of at least a master's, and in some cases, a doctorate. Nurse practitioners, or NPs, are also called advanced practice nurses because they perform many tasks once reserved for physicians. Despite being well educated to get their degree, they never stop learning. NPs are required to complete continuing education to renew their licenses, which is one way to keep them up to date and competent.
About Continuing Education
Continuing education, or CE, assures that nurses and other professionals keep up with changes in their profession. Basket weaving won't cut it for an NP; she has to take courses relevant to her work. CE is measured in contact hours and 60 minutes of instruction equals one contact hour. Academic courses are usually measured in CEUs, which is usually considered the equivalent of 10 contact hours. CE is available through seminars, Web courses, study booklets and professional conferences. Most CE courses have a fee, but some hospitals and other organizations provide free CE courses.
The States Call the Shots
Individual states regulate the practice of nursing, so CE requirements vary from state to state. NPs may also be certified in a particular specialty. Depending on the state, the NP may be required to complete CE for her license and additional CE for her specialty certification. Some states waive the requirement for CE to renew a license if the NP retains her certified status. As if all that studying isn't enough, some states won't renew an NP's license unless she has actually been working in her specialty.
CE Topics and Timing
A state may allow the NP to choose her CE topics -- as long as it isn't something like "How to Crochet a Doily." All CE programs must be approved by the state in which the NP is licensed. The CE must have been completed within a certain time period prior to license renewal, which may range from one to five years, depending on the state. In California, all RNs and NPs must complete 30 hours of CE every two years. In Washington, NPs must obtain 30 hours of general nursing CE and 15 hours of CE specific to medications.
Mandatory Continuing Education
Some states require NPs to complete mandatory CEs in certain topics. Domestic violence, pain management, different types of abuse and nursing practice topics are required by different states. Florida requires 24 total hours of CE every two years, including two hours on preventing medical errors. Florida NPs must also complete two hours of CE on domestic violence at every third license renewal, in addition to 24 hours of regular CE. In Michigan, NPs must be certified, but if the certification was obtained prior to 1991, the NP must complete 40 hours of CE in her specialty.
- Education Portal: Continuing Education (CE) for Nurse Practitioners -- Options and Requirements
- Florida Department of Health: Nursing Continuing Education
- Washington State Department of Health: Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs) in Washington State -- Frequently Asked Questions March, 2009
- State of Michigan: Continuing Education Requirements for Michigan Nurse Anesthetists, Practitioners and Midwives
- California Board of Registered Nursing: Continuing Education for License Renewal
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.