Recommended Ways for Nurses to Fulfill CEU Requirements



Whether you’ve been taking CEUs as a nurse for 20 years, or you’re looking at your first CEU deadline since getting your nursing license, the thought of completing these courses can be intimidating. Not only are they required if you want to keep your nursing license current, but they can also be difficult to fit into a busy schedule. Not everyone has the time to spare for extra classes, least of all nurses – their work schedules are usually both hectic and unpredictable.

That being the case, it’s important to bring a bit of strategy into the picture. There’s no way around taking these courses, but maybe you can relieve part of the burden by being smart about how you’re taking them. For example, sites like provide state-specific CEU courses for free, which removes some of the responsibility of finding the courses yourself.

Figuring out your learning style is key

Do you learn better when you’re reading, listening, or interacting with the material being taught? That should be one of your considerations when choosing CEU courses, since it will help to determine the overall difficulty level. This will save you from slogging through pages and pages of reading material when you’re really a hands-on learner, or struggling to understand the theories behind workshop activities as someone who does better in classroom environments.

CEU courses come in all shapes and sizes, so the good news is that you’ll have plenty of options. Assuming you’ve given yourself time to sign up for the courses you want, that is; if you wait until the last minute, you’ll end up with fewer options.

What format can nursing CEUs take?

You might be surprised. In addition to classroom courses, you can earn CEUs via the following types of courses:

  • Getting an article published in a peer-reviewed journal
  • Teaching or developing a nursing-related course
  • Nursing-related seminars
  • Nursing-related workshops

CEU accreditation varies by state, so your state may or may not approve these types of courses as CEUs; the point is that you have a fair amount of flexibility with how you fulfill CEU requirements.

With more and more services being offered online, it’s no surprise that it’s now easier than ever to take CEU courses online as well. For some people, online CEU courses offer both cost savings and convenience. For others, they represent technological challenges. They certainly aren’t for everyone, but for those that want greater flexibility, they can be a lifesaver.

Continuing Education Unit FAQ

There are plenty of technicalities involved with CEUs, so it might be helpful to cover the main talking points.

  • Are CEUs and contact hours the same thing?

Some people use these terms interchangeably, but that simply isn’t correct. One CEU is equal to 10 contact hours, so clearly they’re quite different. The ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center) usually expresses CEU requirements in contact hours, and so do the boards of nursing in most states. However, some CEU providers measure course credit in the number of CEUs that could be earned, so it’s up to you to keep an eye out for who’s using which term.

  • What happens if I don’t complete CEU requirements before my nursing license expires?

Your nursing license may not turn into a pumpkin at midnight, but there are several potential consequences of letting your license expire due to incomplete CEUs. If you don’t show proof of completion by the deadline, it could impact your eligibility for bonuses at work, or even your employment status. You would have the option to ask the state board of nursing to reinstate your license once you’d completed the required CEUs, but they wouldn’t necessarily give you the answer you wanted. The worst-case scenario would be that you lose your nursing license entirely, and have to pass the nursing exam a second time in order to be reinstated. In other words – this is one deadline you should take seriously!

  • What about CE courses that are nursing-related?

There are plenty of continuing education courses that are reputable, authoritative, and relevant to the field of nursing – but they won’t necessarily count as CEUs. Why? Because only courses that have been accredited by your state’s board of nursing or the ANCC can be counted as CEUs. You can certainly take CE courses for your own personal benefit, but they’ll be in addition to your CEU workload.

  • What are the benefits of CEUs besides just keeping my nursing license current?

Many of the advantages of CEUs are the same as what professionals get from regular CE courses. For example, CEUs can help you keep your head in the game, which is especially important for nurses. The field of medicine changes every year, and without continuing education of some kind, you could quickly get left behind.

CEUs can also look great on a resume. If you’re interested in a promotion or a job at another organization, the CEU courses you take could provide the skills or certifications needed to take the next step in your career.

  • Do I really have to keep records of the CEU courses I take?

That’s right – every CEU course you complete should be recorded, and those records kept for as long as you hold a nursing license. Just like how companies are supposed to hold onto tax records just in case they have to prove a paper trail, the state board of nursing may ask to see additional proof of completed CEUs. The information you’ll need to hold onto includes the courses’ title, the provider’s name, the courses’ ID number, the date the course was completed, and the number of contact hours awarded.

The takeaway

There’s never really a convenient time to take CEUs, but they don’t have to be as difficult as you might think. Try tailoring the courses you choose to your learning style, and give yourself plenty of time to register for the ones you actually want, rather than the ones that are left at the eleventh hour. With just a little more planning, you can focus more on the courses themselves, and less on all the associated regulations.