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The Importance of Continuing Education for Nurses

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Marleny Hucks
Marleny Hucks
Marlene (or Marleny as she is known in Spanish) is a mentor, teacher, cross-cultural trainer, storyteller, writer, and for those who have been under her leadership or simply sat across the table from her, she is a mirror of destiny. Her love of word and image were formed early on by one of her heroes, Dr. Seuss. If you asked those who know her well, they would describe her a compassionate, funny, wise, curious, honest, real, strong, sensitive and totally human which comes out as she teaches and writes. She sees all of life, even the most mundane, through faith and believes that who we become as we live this side of the veil is what matters not the journey itself or our circumstances. Marleny Hucks has spent her life crossing bridges. She comes from a diverse background of ministry roles and contexts as well as has transitioned in and out of the business world. Having lived outside the country as well as traveled extensively she has a fascination with culture causes her to live her life within a global mosaic no matter where her feet are planted. Marlene currently lives in South Carolina with her husband David, who owns a news company but who she says is a “crime fighter”, bringing light into darkness in their systems of their city. Marleny currently works as a content management specialist covering Myrtle Beach News for MyrtleBeachSC News.

The nursing profession is constantly evolving to meet the changing landscape of healthcare. With new technologies, treatments, and best practices emerging all the time, it is essential for nurses to continuously update their knowledge and skills through continuing education.

Most states actually require nurses to complete a certain number of continuing education hours every couple of years in order to renew their licenses. This mandatory continuing education aims to ensure that nurses are providing the safest, highest quality care based on the latest advancements in the field.

Beyond simply maintaining licensure, continuing education benefits nurses in myriad ways. It 

allows them to enhance their expertise over time, apply new evidence-based practices, protect patients and institutions from harm, advance their careers, and ultimately improve patient outcomes. However, nursing continuing education also faces barriers like time constraints, lack of access or support, and cost considerations. Nurses must find ways to overcome these obstacles in order to fully reap the rewards of lifelong learning.

Continuing education provides numerous professional benefits for nurses. It enables them to stay current with best practices in nursing care. For example, regular training in Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) allows nurses to get certification in emergency medicine and sharpen their skills in critical life saving protocols. Access to the latest evidence-based research helps nurses understand and implement new developments to improve patient outcomes. Ongoing education also protects healthcare institutions from potential legal liability by ensuring staff competency.

Additionally, continuing education permits nurses to develop specialized skills to advance their careers. Opportunities like informatics certifications, leadership training, and telehealth coursework make nurses more qualified for higher level roles. Enhanced expertise translates into better care quality, as shown by studies linking greater continuing education with decreased patient mortality, medical errors, infections, and readmissions. Overall, continuing education is a career-long process that empowers nurses to provide safe, ethical, high-quality care.

Nursing continuing education is evolving to meet the needs of today’s healthcare environment. Some current trends include:

  • Online Learning – Online courses, modules, and webinars are in high demand due to flexibility and remote accessibility. These modes have increased exponentially since 2020.
  • Telehealth Training – As telehealth grows, nurses require education on providing care virtually, technology skills, and best practices.
  • Informatics – With the rise of electronic records and data analytics, certifications in nursing informatics give an edge.
  • Cultural Competency – Training in cultural awareness and humility helps reduce disparities and personal biases in care.
  • Medical Ethics – Ethical questions arise daily, so recurring ethics instruction maintains sound judgement.

The COVID-19 pandemic also accelerated several technologies for nursing education like virtual simulation, augmented reality, and mobile learning apps. While traditional face-to-face continuing education remains valid, nurses increasingly blend this with online education for greater convenience and access.

Overcoming Barriers to Continuing Education

While continuing education clearly benefits nurses, certain obstacles often impede participation. The top barriers include a lack of time, high costs, and insufficient institutional support.

Heavy patient loads reduce available time for continuing education. Strategies like motivational interviewing help nurses overcome motivational barriers. Workplaces can also promote shared governance models, allowing staff nurses to have input on adjusting schedules for education.

Many nurses struggle to pay for continuing education costs personally. Accessing financial assistance programs and student aid can ease this burden. Advocating for the administration to allocate budgets for staff development is vital.

Lastly, managers play a key role in cultivating a culture that values ongoing learning. They should demonstrate strong support for continuing education at the unit level. Eliminating barriers involves commitment across the healthcare organization to empower staff.

The Role of Technology in Nursing Education

Technology is transforming nursing education and opening new possibilities for continuing learning. Simulation labs, virtual reality, gamification, and online communities allow nurses to develop clinical skills and reinforce knowledge in engaging, low-risk environments.

Digital platforms also enable nurses to participate in continuing education asynchronously and on-demand. Learning management systems curate video lessons, articles, live webinars, and dynamic quizzes into personalized courses on a wide range of topics.

Integrating technology effectively requires an instructional design approach tailored to adult learners. Nurse educators must align multimedia materials with clearly defined objectives and provide opportunities for learner interaction.

Overall, technology expands access to lifelong learning for nurses. It prepares them to utilize technical tools in real practice settings while promoting an adaptive mindset. However, striking a balance with in-person education continues to be important for well-rounded development.

In summary, continuing education is critically important for nurses to provide excellent care throughout their careers. Nurses have an ethical responsibility to stay current by regularly participating in continuing nursing education. While mandatory for licensure renewal, the benefits extend far beyond basic requirements. Ongoing learning allows nurses to enhance their clinical knowledge, apply emerging best practices, advance professionally, and ultimately improve the quality of care delivered.

However, nurses must proactively overcome barriers to engagement in continuing education. The profession is changing rapidly, and nursing education must evolve in parallel. Capitalizing on innovations like technology-enabled learning will be key. Investment in nursing continuing education from healthcare institutions also remains essential. With an emphasis on lifelong learning, nurses can flourish amid the dynamic healthcare landscape and continue meeting society’s needs.

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