CEU’s- Virtual Learning VS Being There
Hollis Forester, RNC-NP
Now that you have had your license for a couple of years, you may be thinking about attending continuing education courses. Here are some thoughts about how to decide what kind of conference to attend and whether or not to do your learning virtually or in-person.
Continuing Education requirements for registered nurses vary from State to State. Some states mandate as many as 30 hours of documented CEU’s (continuing education units) every two years, other states have no requirements. Advanced Practice Nurses are more frequently required to document continuing education than registered nurses, and there are few rules for Licensed Practical Nurses. Of course, as a professional nurse, there are ethical considerations for updating your practice. And for most, learning the newest and best is a matter of interest and stems from a strong desire to stay current with nursing practice as opposed to being an externally imposed requirement.
There are many ways to get continuing education units. There is a plethora of on-line courses available and it is not difficult to find a conference of interest in a location you have been dreaming of visiting (like those in Hawaii or Mexico). How to decide where to go? Certainly, in terms of content, consider what kind of practice you are engaged in, what would help you do a better job, what weaknesses (challenges) have you noticed in you work (be honest with yourself, of course). You may choose something directly connected with your everyday job functions (a task oriented course) or you may want to delve into something a little more abstract (management and leadership styles), you may also want to learn something completely different to expand your horizons and possibly your value to the team (being a nurse legal consultant or obstetric nursing). So, CONTENT is the first decision to consider.
Next, think about how you learn best. Do you do well with little interaction? Or does it help you to ask questions, or even just hear the questions other people ask? Would you like to see the expert delivering the information and maybe talk with him or her after the lecture? How do you best absorb and retain information? Developing some answers to these questions will help you decide between an on-line venue and a live one. The next decision then is, HOW DO YOU BEST LEARN? Of course, you can use both technologies. Maybe one year attend a two or three day conference and the next year stay closer to home and your computer for your learning adventures.
What are some advantages of an in-person conference? There are many reasons to attend live conferences for your continuing education. The networking possibilities are a very valuable reason. You can network with other nurses in your field, or other nurses in fields you may want to learn about. You can also be exposed to the vendors that provide your practice or hospital with the equipment and supplies you use everyday. You may even be able to point out improvements they can make in their products to make your practice and the care you provide to your patients better. The vendor exhibits at these events are always very interesting and seeing them adds to your knowledge base about your practice.
The conferences often have a meal or two included in with their registration fee, so if you like “a free lunch” you may be able to find it!
The cost of on-line and in-person conferences, of course, varies widely depending on the length of the course, how many CEU’s are being offered, and for conferences, the location, hotel and number of speakers. I found some on-line courses of about one hour in length (usually one hour of lecture equals one CEU), that cost $15.00. I found three day conferences available for around $750. The in-person conference for $750.,offered 23 CEU’s, which means the cost per CEU was about $32.00, where the cost of the on-line CEU’s were $15.00 each. But, remember the additional possibilities of networking with peers, vendors and experts that occurs during an in-person conference.
Completing continuing education courses on-line also has many benefits, especially for the busy nurse. You can complete the course after the children are in bed, or any time and place of your choosing. You can avoid the cost of travelling, the hotel, meals and taxis needed to attend a conference, as well as save the time (and perhaps, your exposure to a virus or two). Many of the courses found on line are the exact course delivered by the expert at a recent conference, so you hear the information straight from the expert without the travel. These reasons for choosing on-line education are compelling for some.
My advice? Mix it up. Develop a plan to assure you always are at the “top of your game” in nursing, with a robust knowledge base to assure your value to your team and an outlook that includes continuous learning throughout your career. On-line or in person, learning should never stop.