The role of the family nurse practitioner continues to grow every year. An aging population, a rise in morbidity due to chronic illnesses, and growth in the overall population are forcing nurses to gain additional skills at every stage of their careers.
Twenty or thirty years ago, the average nurse needed only to qualify as an RN. Today, that is barely enough. Most employers are seeking nurses who have at least one degree, and in many cases, they prioritize those who have a master’s qualification.
Even with a post-graduate degree, nurses must not stop there. Those who want to excel in their careers must engage in further education so that they bolster their knowledge and skills.
Continuing education is important in all careers, but more so in nursing. Rapid changes in healthcare, the introduction of patient-centered care, and even the need to be culturally sensitive in the workplace are just some of the reasons why nurses are enrolling in continuing education courses.
There are many courses that nursing professionals can enroll in. What they choose depends on the skills gap that they are trying to fill. Nurses can complete online DNP FNP programs, for example. Most online DNP FNP programs cover topics like advanced health assessment, pediatric primary care, advanced practice for patients of different ages, and advanced primary care.
Institutions such as the University of Indianapolis provide rigorous academic training to ensure that your journey of further education goes smoothly. Their DNP FNP course is designed for nurses who want to achieve a high level of proficiency in family practice, and it consists of classroom instruction and clinical placement. To qualify, students need to have a BSN and a GPA of at least 3.0. They also need to have some work experience, and they should have an active RN license.
Further education prepares graduates who become FNPs for the need, when they enter the workplace, to keep on learning so that they can deliver the sorts of outcomes that patients are looking for.
Table of Contents
What is continuing education for nurses?
With today’s rapid changes in healthcare, nurses need to brush up on their knowledge and skills so that they can stay on top of their game. Whatever courses they choose to add to their existing qualifications can be considered continuing education.
Three acronyms are often used in the topic of continuing education for nurses: CE, CNE and CEU.
CE stands for Continuing Education, and it is required in most states for RN licensees. The relevant authorities want to see that nurses keep themselves updated on the latest in the industry.
CNE stands for Continuing Nursing Education, and it refers to the type of additional education that is designed specifically for nurses in specific fields. It delivers ongoing professional development and improves nursing skills and knowledge in their particular specialty.
CEU refers to Continuing Education Credits, and these quantify the time that nurses invest in additional education courses. They usually cover classroom or online courses, conferences, seminars and any other training that nurses may opt to get. In most states, 10 hours of additional instruction is equal to one CEU.
Most states require that nurses attend some form of additional training each year. Even in states where it isn’t mandatory, nurses are advised to ensure that they attend continuing education as proof of competence. Many employers will insist on proof of continuing education before they hire new nurses, so it is important for those who want to grow their careers to enroll in courses and attend seminars and conferences.
Why is continuing education important for nurses?
Nurses are busy professionals, and attending courses may not be at the top of their list of priorities. Why should they spend precious time on what looks like just another chore? How does it help to bolster one’s educational qualifications?
It is important to think about the bigger picture when considering additional education for nurses. It doesn’t just benefit the nurse; it is also of great help to the patient. Most importantly, it adds value to the whole healthcare chain because it has a positive impact on the overall quality of care that patients receive in healthcare facilities.
Nurses provide most of the care that patients need. It has been estimated that the average nurse spends about 76% of their time with patients, far more than any other healthcare professional.
This means that when they get continuing education and can deliver better patient care, the effects are carried throughout the healthcare system. The more nurses are educated, the better outcomes they can deliver.
There are other reasons why every nurse needs to undertake continuing education at least once every year.
Patient care is becoming ever more complex
There was a time when advances in healthcare were slow. Nurses and doctors used the same skills and knowledge that they had learned decades before, and it was considered sufficient. Today, healthcare advances move at a far more rapid pace. Every year, there are new ways for family nurse practitioners to diagnose patients, new medications, new equipment, and new care practices.
Those who don’t keep up and insist on using old methods are soon replaced by those with up-to-date skills. Nurses who want to climb the career ladder – and sometimes those who simply want to keep their jobs – must be proactive about learning the latest in healthcare and their specific field of nursing.
The skills they learn transfer directly to patients
If a nurse learns how to do a certain procedure less painfully and more quickly, the patient is happier. They don’t have to sit through long, painful treatments or tests. If an FNP adds to their knowledge of pharmacology, they can prescribe better drugs that have fewer side effects and work more efficiently.
These are just two examples of how additional training for nurses translates into improved patient care. When patients have positive outcomes, they recover faster and are confident about the treatment they receive. Nurses who learn new skills and knowledge through continuing education deliver better results in patient care than those who insist on using outdated methods.
Healthcare facilities also benefit when nurses get continuing education
Patients are more likely to visit hospitals, clinics, and other facilities where nurses are knowledgeable and use the latest advances in medicine to deliver treatment and care. Hospitals that don’t update employee skills cannot deliver cutting-edge patient treatment and care, and they are more likely to record negative outcomes than positive ones.
Over time, they lose the public’s confidence, record fewer and fewer patients, and their bottom line suffers. It is therefore the responsibility of every healthcare facility to make sure that all nurses continually gain new skills. They should make time for every FNP to attend a course at least once a year.
It increases job satisfaction
The more a nurse knows about how to administer different procedures, the better they feel about their job. When they are confident that they can undertake just about every task they are charged with, they feel a sense of pride and satisfaction. A happy nurse is likely to deliver more positive patient outcomes than one who isn’t.
Learning brings opportunities to connect with others
Networking in nursing is important; when nurses meet other nurses, they can share ideas, discuss important concepts, and even share their frustrations. These meetings help form lasting bonds that nurses can use to improve their careers, enact new policies, and impact communities wherever they serve.
Classrooms are important meeting places for those who want to network. They bring together professionals with similar goals, and they have a great opportunity to learn from each other about the challenges they face and what other practitioners are doing that helps improve patient outcomes.
Patient and family expectations have risen over the years
There is a plethora of information out there, and it is available to anyone who looks it up. Patients and their families go online to learn about the latest treatments and patient-care procedures. They expect more from their nurses. As little as 30 or 40 years ago, the relationship between healthcare professional and patient was rather different. What the nurse or doctor told a patient was taken as gospel truth, and healthcare professionals were seen as all-knowing. This isn’t the case anymore.
Patients and their families can go online and learn about the latest in healthcare, and they expect their care providers to use these advancements to treat and care for them. They can go as far as asking for a new nurse if they feel that the one they have is using outdated methods to care for them.
Nurses who are keen to engender patient trust and climb up the career ladder must always remember that their profession is much more transparent now. Continuing education gives them the skills to deliver the sort of care that patients and their families expect.
Continuing education is vital for aspiring nurse managers
Any nurse who wants to climb to a management position must take time to do additional courses. They need to learn about management and finance in healthcare, personnel and human resources, community nursing, policy-making, and other topics that are necessary for nurse managers.
There are many continuing education courses out there for those who want to get promoted into management, but it is important to choose those that are offered by renowned institutions that are recognized by employers.
It is the easiest way to a promotion
No one wants to be stuck in the same place throughout their nursing career. Climbing up the ladder is proof that one is getting better at their chosen profession.
Employers often look at how much additional education a nurse has acquired over the years before they decide to promote them. Nurses who continually learn are usually promoted faster than those who don’t.
They can expand their knowledge about various topics that are of interest to them
If a practitioner is interested in community nursing, for example, one way to get into it would be to take a course that covers this particular topic and learn how they can deliver better healthcare to those within the communities that they serve.
A nurse who is interested in working with handicapped children can look for a training course that directly addresses that need so that they can learn about what is required for the treatment and care of these particular patients. Continuing education offers practitioners a chance to get into whatever area of nursing interests them. So long as they have a basic nursing degree and an active RN license, they can be accepted into most higher education nursing courses.
What is the best way to gain continuing education?
There is no particular route that nurses should follow to gain more education, and whatever one opts to do depends on their particular circumstances.
One important consideration to take into account is time, because nursing professionals are rather busy and it can be difficult to squeeze in time for learning. In conjunction with their employer, nurses can work out flexible schedules that allow a few hours of learning each week.
Finances can also be an issue, and before enrolling in any higher education courses, nurses should speak to their employers about getting tuition support. Many institutions are happy to pay for some or all of the tuition, so long as the nurse will use what they learn to benefit the hospital or clinic.
Lastly, before applying for higher education, nurse practitioners should consider whether they have the stamina it takes to work and study at the same time. It can be mentally and physically exhausting to do both, so it is important to set aside time for family, hobbies, exercise, and relaxation.
Continuing education for nurses is no longer an option. Those who want to progress in their career must take proactive steps to learn, add to their skills, and familiarize themselves with the latest advancements in healthcare. Nurses who undertake at least one additional course a year are likely to climb the career ladder faster than those who don’t.