Nursing and CNA Continuing Education CEUs

Information Last Verified: February 22, 2021 by Jordan Fabel

Nurses provide care for families, individuals, and communities in need of healthcare. Nurses play an important role in healthcare, but they don’t have the same authority as doctors. Nurses are normally under the supervision or directions of a doctor. However, some states do allow nurses to work independently in certain situations. However, no matter the situation, those in nursing differ in training, level of authority, approach to patient care, and education.

The most well-known professions in nursing include:

  1. Certified nursing assistant (CNA)
  2. Registered nurse (RN)
  3. Licensed practical nurse (LPN)

Although all three of these professionals work in nursing, they aren’t all the same. The initial training and continuing education requirements differ for CNAs, RNs, and LPNs.

Initial Training and Continuing Education for a CNA

A CNA doesn’t have the authority to diagnose medical conditions or make medical decisions. But a CNA does play an important role in a patient’s well-being.

If a patient needs help feeding themselves, a CNA is there to help. When a patient is unable to bathe themselves, a CNA gets the job done. A CNA does what they can to make hospitals and nursing homes more comfortable for patients.

The entry-level job of a CNA is often a stepping stone to other opportunities within the healthcare industry. It’s often a good starting point because becoming a CNA takes less time, money, and training than other healthcare positions.

Initial CNA Educational Requirements

The only requirement for entering a CNA program is to have a high school diploma or GED. But specific program requirements vary by state. In some states, a CNA is referred to as a Patient Care Assistant (PCA) or a Nurse Aide (NA).

For example, Alabama uses the term Nurse Aide. Alabama requires a NA to pass a competency evaluation program and state-approved training. Training is available from universities, colleges, healthcare training facilities, and in nursing home settings.

For example, The University of West Alabama offers the Certified Nursing Assistant Program. And the American Red Cross offers CNA training in some states.

While specific program requirements vary by state, a prospective CNA must complete an accredited program. Upon program completion, the CNA will need to complete a specific number of clinical and training hours. The number of hours required varies by state.

For example, Alabama requires a CNA to have 75 hours of training, including 16 hours of lab training and 16 hours of clinical training.

Continuing Education Hours or CEUs

A CNA must become certified to work within a healthcare setting. And to remain certified, it’s necessary to renew the certification periodically. Some states require proof of continuing education courses, or CEUs, before certification is renewed. CNA continuing education requirements vary by state.

Below is a list of 20 states and their continuing education requirements. This example illustrates how states have different requirements and why it’s important for a CNA to know their state’s specific requirements.

CNA Continuing Education Requirements by State

The most reliable way to confirm continuing education hours is to contact the local CNA governing board.

For example, a CNA in Kansas would contact the Survey, Certification, and Credentialing Commission of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. And a CNA in Florida would contact the Florida Board of Nursing.

Initial Training and Continuing Education for an RN

An RN typically assists doctors and other nurses in providing critical care to patients in settings such as hospitals, clinics, and medical offices.

However, an RN can actually work in a wide variety of settings. Home healthcare services, schools, businesses, churches, and community centers often employ RNs.

A bachelor’s degree in nursing is the most common route taken to become an RN. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) takes 4 years to complete. During that time, the students learn about:

Instead of a BSN, some students choose to pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or nursing diploma. It takes 2-years to earn an ADN from a community college or vocational school. A nursing diploma also takes 2-years to earn from an approved nursing program.

RN Continuing Education

An RN must have a license to provide medical care and assistance within certain healthcare settings legally. And after earning a license, an RN must periodically renew the license based on state requirements.

Continuing education courses are a requirement for RN license renewal in most states. And in those states, an RNs license is only renewed if the RN fulfills the course requirements. However, the exact requirements vary by state.

Below are examples of RN continuing education course requirements by state. The examples highlight how different states have different requirements.

An RN needs to know the specific continuing education requirements for their state. Each state has a local board or committee that oversees the nursing profession and can provide information on local course requirements.

Differences Between an RN and an LPN

An LPN provides basic nursing care and helps keep patients comfortable. And unlike an RN, an LPN isn’t authorized to offer medical advice, administer medication, or provide treatment.

It generally takes 1-year to 2-years to earn an LPN diploma or to complete an LPN certificate program. LPN training generally includes nursing coursework and hands-on clinical experience.

The license renewal requirements for an LPN depends on the state. And like with CNAs and RNs, continuing education is sometimes a requirement for LPNs.

For example, an LPN licensed in Alabama needs 24 hours of continuing education courses every 2-years. And in Georgia, the requirement is 30 hours every 2-years.

Some states, such as Arizona and Colorado, don’t require any continuing education for LPN license renewal. And other states, such as Alaska, offer LPNs a choice between continuing education and some other option.

In Alaska, an LPN can choose to complete 30 hours of continuing education in order for license renewal. The LPN can also choose 320 hours of nursing work or 30 hours of nursing activities. To renew a license, the LPN must choose two of the three options.

Finding Accredited Courses

All continuing education courses must have state approval. A CNA, RN, or LPN won’t receive credit for courses taken from a non-approved course provider.

Approved course providers must provide courses that each state considers appropriate for nursing training. And each state has its own requirements that course providers must meet.

In general, approved course providers are educational institutions or organizations with organized educational departments. There is usually an official program director, official program procedures and policies, and the appropriate instructors, resources, and facilities.

Approved continuing education course providers often include:

  1. Professional associations, organizations, and partnerships
  2. Universities, colleges, and junior colleges
  3. Nursing homes
  4. Clinics
  5. Hospitals
  6. Home healthcare agencies
  7. Governmental agencies

Some states also allow online continuing education courses. However, even states that allow online courses sometimes limit how many hours can come from online courses.

Getting Credit for Hours Earned

Upon completion of continuing education courses, a certificate of completion is issued to each student. The certificate confirms that the student has taken and passed the required continuing education courses.

In some cases, the course provider submits proof of hours earned to the state on behalf of the student. But some states require the student to submit their own proof of hours completed.

Proof of continuing education course completion is due before the license renewal deadline. If the requirement isn’t met, then the license will lapse.

Job Outlook for the Nursing Profession

The job outlook for the nursing profession is positive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs within the nursing profession will experience a higher than average growth between 2012 and 2022.

Over half a million new nursing jobs are expected. And the current 2 percent unemployment rate in the nursing field is low. However, some nursing positions are in more demand than others.

The most in-demand nursing positions include:

The above jobs in nursing require a Master of Nursing (MSN) degree. That means after earning a bachelor’s degree, the nurse must also earn a master’s degree.

Other high-demand nursing areas don’t require extra schooling. For example, a master’s degree isn’t required for critical care nursing, dialysis nursing, nursing education, research, travel nursing, or nursing informatics.

The nursing profession’s explosive growth is attributed to the aging population and the current shortage of nurses. Also, more people are obtaining health insurance and gaining access to medical care. All of these factors combined have increased the need for nurses.

Earning a BSN

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing isn’t a requirement for becoming a CNA. But getting a BSN is a stepping stone that opens the doors to other areas of nursing.

Also, some healthcare facilities are starting to require that all nurses at least have a BSN. That means that even if a person wants to become a CNA, they’ll have a better chance of getting the job if they have a BSN instead of an associate’s degree or nursing diploma.

Nurses with a BSN also make more money than those without a BSN. Nurses with a BSN earn an average salary of $84,000 a year. But nurses with an associate’s degree or nursing diploma earn an average of $69,000 a year.

A BSN also allows a nurse to develop a better understanding of the nursing profession. The advanced training usually results in nurses who are more confident in their role than nurses without advanced training.

State-Approved BSN Programs

There are several BSN programs available. It’s important to choose an accredited program, so always research a program before enrolling.

Most local nursing commissions, registries, or boards maintain a list of state-approved nursing programs. In addition to checking locally, The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing maintains a list of accredited nursing programs.

The Importance of Education for Nurses

Getting a good education is important for anyone entering the field of nursing. Not only is it important to attend a state-approved program, but continuing education is important in most states as well. Perspective nurses should take care to learn their specific state requirements for beginning a nursing career.