Do Nurses Need Nursing Continuing Education?
The practice of nursing is demanding on every level – physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. It’s difficult at the end of the day to consider doing more than you’re already doing. Still, nursing continuing education makes a difference.
The Education Gap in Nursing:
As in many professions, higher levels of education mean more opportunities and usually higher pay. A licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse (LPN) earns about $46,240 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They complete postsecondary training and licensure but don’t need degrees.
A registered nurse, or RN, does generally need a bachelor’s degree. The additional education results in a salary of $71,730, almost one and a half times higher than what the LPN takes home. Nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and other advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) earn another one and a half times what the RN earns – a median of $113,930 per year. To qualify for this salary level, you have to have at least a master’s degree and national certification.
Within each of these categories, there are special areas of expertise that correlate with higher pay grades. These niche knowledge categories also require education, but it’s much less expensive and time-consuming than earning an additional advanced degree. For working nurses, that matters.
Nursing Continuing Education and the Working Professional:
On any nursing floor, handfuls of professionals would love to earn advanced degrees, but only a few can make it work. Nurses work notoriously long hours, often in long “sprints,” and that doesn’t leave a lot of time for studying.
A survey of new nurses showed that the average weekly workload is around 40 hours, served primarily in 12-hour shifts. Additionally, more than 45 percent of surveyed nurses work voluntary overtime, and 12 percent work mandatory overtime.
The 12-hour shift is popular with new and experienced nurses since it usually equates to a three-day workweek. Of course, those 12 hours only include time spent on the floor. It doesn’t count shift transition, which can be up to two unpaid hours a day if you’re in a busy medical center. Then a 12-hour shift becomes 14 hours, with another half-hour added for lunch.
There’s not much time left for coursework and studying, especially when you consider the sleep you have to catch up on. Beyond the time factor, there’s the mental energy factor. As a nurse, you have to balance the ever-shifting needs of multiple patients, coordinate care with other professionals, and somehow manage to meet your own basic needs. When you add in classwork to that mix, many nurses find themselves struggling with burnout.
Opportunities for Success:
Fortunately, opportunities do exist to help nurses develop their careers without becoming completely overwhelmed. Working nurses can now study online, completing a variety of programs from stand-alone classes to full bachelor’s and even master’s degrees.
Certification courses are also great ways for nurses to advance their careers. Nurses can choose areas of specialization and pursue focused training, establishing themselves within a niche and making themselves more marketable in the process.
A correctional nurse works with incarcerated inmates, a population that tends to be more susceptible to certain chronic illnesses and infectious diseases. Inmates are also more likely to be mentally ill, struggle with substance addiction, or have abuse histories.
Correctional nurses may be LPNs, RNs, or APRNs. You can also choose to get a Certified Correctional Health Professional (CCHP) designation and then go on to earn your CCHP-RN. Any RN with a CCHP is eligible to earn the specialized CCHP-RN designation, but you do have to pass a two-hour multiple-choice examination and send in an application.
While you can practice without earning either of these certifications, they will make you a more appealing hire for correctional facilities. Jobs in this field are expected to decline, largely due to projected decreasing prison populations, so any competitive edge you can get will be a benefit.
Discharge planning is a valuable career option for nurses who enjoy care coordination and patient advocacy. Discharge planners work closely with physicians, therapists, and others to determine what kind of care a patient needs after leaving the hospital. They’re also responsible for arranging that care, whether it will take place in the patient’s home, at a rehab center, or in a skilled nursing facility.
Federal law requires that all hospitals have discharge planners on staff. A discharge planner must be a licensed nurse or social worker, but the specific educational requirements vary by state. If you have experience and/or special training in discharge planning, you will be extremely valuable to hospitals.
Wound Care Nursing:
A certified wound care nurse is in demand across many different practice settings, including skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers with older patients.
If you’re interested in wound care nursing, you can get training at the continuing education level or combine your CE credits with a wound care certification program. Vohra Wound Care Certification offers both options, in addition to a free education program for those who don’t need credits. The smartest option is usually certification since it makes you more marketable to skilled nursing employers.
When skilled nursing centers have wound care nurses on-site, they can achieve better patient outcomes without the cost of sending the patient off-site for care. Wound care nurses also significantly decrease the incidence and severity of pressure ulcers. Facilities know that fewer pressure ulcers mean fewer regulatory issues and lower overall costs, so a nurse with this skill is a very smart hire.
There’s no question that more education translates to more career options and higher income for nurses. It’s difficult to realize that potential, especially if you’re pursuing a post-secondary degree, but many other options align better with the working nurse’s schedule.
You can find these opportunities nestled in the world of nursing continuing education. Beyond courses that help you to maintain your licensure, CE also includes certification programs in areas like wound care and correctional nursing. No matter what your career preferences and talents are, there’s a track out there that would be perfect for you.
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Maria Khatun Mona is a Founder and Editor of Nursing Exercise Blog. She is a Nursing and Midwifery Expert. Currently she is working as a Registered Nurse at Evercare Hospital, Dhaka, Bangladesh. She has great passion in writing different articles on Nursing and Midwifery. Mail her at “[email protected]”