Types of Continuing Education for Nurses

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Written by Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN Freelance Writer, IntelyCare
Male nurse sitting at desk and working on a laptop for continuing ed credits.

Nursing education doesn’t stop after you receive your license. Instead, nurses at all practice levels are required to complete continuing education courses. There are a number of different types of continuing education for nurses that you can chose from.

The American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC) is the primary accrediting body for continuing education in the nursing field and it updated its 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 your 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. 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 Continuing Education Courses?

Continuing education for healthcare professionals is essential to maintaining practices that are based on recent evidence and research. These 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 NCPDs focus on skill development, while other continuing nursing education topics inform and educate on medicine, communication, and leadership.

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

Common Types of Continuing Education for Nurses

Nurses can complete NCPD in several different formats. This is ideal for people who enjoy learning in a variety of ways. You can choose which format complements the way you learn best. Your options include:

  • Conferences
  • Live classes
  • Online classes
  • Live or online webinars
  • Self-study packets

Organizations are also starting to think outside the box by offering contact hours in nontraditional formats like podcasts.

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 licenses. The number of hours differs not just by state but also by your job title.

Let’s look at some specific examples for continuing education 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 two years: 30 contact hours, 200 practice hours, and 15 contact hours, or 400 practice hours. For more information, check out our state guide on continuing education requirements for nurses.

Where Can You Find Continuing Education for Nurses?

Different types of organizations offer different types of continuing education for nurses. Professional nursing associations, peer-reviewed publications, and websites like IntelyEdu are all great places to look for continuing professional development.

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 NCPD?

Most states give nursing professionals two or three years to complete their NCPD, 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 options for free continuing education for nurses. 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.

IntelyPros Have Access to Free NCPD

Looking for affordable types of continuing education for nurses and nursing assistants? These and other valuable resources are available to you when you join IntelyCare. Get started today.