What to Know About Continuing Education for Nurses

What to know about Continuing Education for Nurses

Nursing education doesn’t stop after you receive your license. Instead, nurses at all practice levels are required to complete continuing education (CE) courses. These are also referred to as continuing nursing education (CNE) courses. Continuing education for nurses is essential to maintaining a practice that’s based on the latest evidence and research. Here’s what you need to know.

What are Continuing Education Courses?

CE courses are designed specifically for nursing professionals and cover a range of topics. They help nurses learn about and understand the latest developments in patient care. Some CEs focus on skill development, while others inform and educate on topics like medicine, communication, and leadership.

Nurses complete CEs in several different formats, such as live classes, online classes, and self-study packets. In some cases, nurses can earn CEs while attending professional conferences.

When you complete a CE course, you earn “contact hours” that count toward your license renewal. These contact hours reflect your time spent learning about a topic — one CE contact hour is equivalent to 1 hour of instruction.

What is NCPD?

The American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC) is the primary accrediting body for continuing education in nursing and they updated their terminology for continuing nursing education (CNE) to nursing continuing professional development (NCPD) in 2019. When you see this term, it is synonymous with CE or CNE, however NCPD is the preferred usage by the ANCC. In cases where organizations have been accredited by the ANCC, much like IntelyCare and our IntelyEdu program, you will see the updated terminology reflected on the organization’s website.

When fulfilling professional development credits for the year it should be noted that one contact hour of CE/CNE credit is equal to one contact hour of NCPD credit. There are no requirement changes to your continuing education plans based on this language change. Your requirements are still mandated by the state where you practice.

What are Some Examples of Requirements by State?

Licensing boards in almost all states require nurses to complete a certain number of contact hours in order to maintain their license. Let’s look at some specific examples for registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) in a few different states. Keep in mind that certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are also required to complete contact hours depending where they practice.


  • RNs: 24 contact hours every 2 years.
  • LPNs: 24 contact hours every 2 years (12 allowed through independent study).
  • CNAs: No contact hours required.


  • RNs: 20 contact hours every 2 years.
  • LPNs: 20 contact hours every 2 years.
  • CNAs: No contact hours required.


  • RNs: 30 contact hours every 2 years, including a mandatory child abuse course.
  • LPNs: No contact hours required.
  • CNAs: No contact hours required.

Some states also require nurses to complete a certain number of practice hours to renew their license. For example, RNs in Utah can complete one of the following every 2 years: 30 contact hours, 200 practice hours and 15 contact hours, or 400 practice hours.

Where Can You Find Continuing Education for Nurses?

Different types of organizations offer different types of continuing education courses. Professional nursing associations, peer-reviewed publications, and websites like IntelyEdu are all great places to look for continuing professional development. Organizations are also starting to think outside the box by offering contact hours in nontraditional formats like podcasts.

No matter where you find continuing education, you should be sure the material is part of an accredited program. Checking your state’s Board of Nursing website can help you figure out which sources fulfill this requirement.

Are There Any Other Things to Know about CEs?

Most states give nursing professionals two or three years to complete their CEs, so you shouldn’t wait to start them until the last minute. Each time you renew your license, you need to be prepared to provide documentation of completed contact hours.

Also, you may have to pay a fee to enroll in a continuing education course. But there are courses that are free. It may take a little bit of research, but you can find low-cost or free options to help you meet your continuing education requirements.


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