A Look at Continuing Education Requirements for Nurses

You’ve studied for tests, passed exams and donned your scrubs — education is over now, right? Wrong.

As in many professions, nurses are required to continue their education. As medicine constantly changes and healthcare becomes increasingly complex, it is important for nurses to stay abreast of the newest advances in medicine, and to be aware of the changing laws regarding healthcare. Most states require registered nurses (RNs) to obtain continuing education units (CEUs) to maintain their licensure. Employers may have additional requirements for Magnet status, clinical ladder credit, job requirements or specialty certifications.

What Is a CEU?

CEUs may go by different names depending on the provider. Terminology can be confusing, as some simply use CE for continuing education, while others use CNE (continuing nursing education) to differentiate from continuing medical education (CME). Some specialty recertification allows a certain amount of CME to count for renewal, while others do not. Read your specific requirements carefully as AMA PRA Category 1 (American Medical Association Physician’s Recognition Award) credit is often not included in the list. Every 0.1 CEU (or CNE) equals one contact hour, taking approximately 60 minutes or one hour to complete.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), an accrediting body for nursing education, is changing the term continuing nursing education (CNE) to nursing continuing professional development (NCPD) from 2020 onward. Regardless, it is important that you check with your state’s board of nursing to ensure that you will receive proper credit.

What Are Nursing CEU Requirements?

State Requirements: Each state has different requirements for RNs to maintain licensure. Some states are specific in what content type of CEUs they want you to obtain. For example, Ohio requires at least one CEU related to its nursing practice code and rules, while Kentucky requires a one-time CEU related to shaken baby syndrome.

For nurses licensed in Louisiana, the CEU requirements are based on employment — full-time nurses (+1,600 hours a year) need five contact hours, part-time (160-1,599 hours a year) nurses need 10 contact hours, and nurses who worked less than 160 hours in a year need 15 contact hours. The Louisiana State Board of Nursing puts forth these requirements and handles the annual continuing education requirement.

Specialty Requirements: Most specialties require nurses to obtain specialty-specific CEUs for renewal. For example, oncology nurses with an OCN certification (Oncology Certified Nurse) are required to obtain a minimum of 25 CEUs within four years specifically related to oncology nursing of adults. This amount varies based on each nurse’s results of an individualized learning needs assessment (ILNA) score.

Check your state board of nursing website for your specific state requirements.

Where Can You Find CEUs?

Obtaining CEUs doesn’t have to be a chore; there are even nursing continuing education cruises that you can take! You can also choose to combine your educational requirements with a vacation by going to a destination conference. Nurses can also obtain CEUs closer to home by attending seminars and workshops provided in your area. Fortunately for today’s nurses, many CEUs can be found online, and some are even available for free.

Many websites offer free CEUs, but you have to search. Nurse.org has compiled a list of the top CEUs available online for free. Sites like Nurse.com that either require a subscription for unlimited CEs or a fee per CE also offer courses. Some free-access physician medical education sites like Clinical Care Options, Medscape or Physician Education Resources offer free CNE — just be sure to filter nurse or CNE or CME/CNE for nursing credit.

Nursing requires a lifelong learning strategy. Whether you are meeting requirements or advancing your education, try to be organized with your CE certificates. Most certification renewals, clinical ladder committees, and many states require that you upload your certificate of completion. Other states, like Texas, randomly choose to audit nurses to submit verification of education. Either way, trying to find all your certificates can be a daunting task if you do not keep your files up to date.

How Can a BSN Help?

Want to knock out two things at once? Many states accept university-level classes as CEUs — you can complete your licensure requirements and obtain a BSN at the same time. Additionally, your employer may reimburse you for all or some of your education costs, so you can fulfill that CEU requirement and further your career goals at a lower cost.

Learn more about the UL Lafayette online RN to BSN program.


Nurse.org: Continuing Nurse Education

AAACEUS.com: Nursing Continuing Education Requirements by State

American Nurses Credentialing Center

Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation

NCSBN: Contact a US Member

Accredited Continuing Education Cruise Conferences

Destination Earth: CME/CNE Adventures for Nurses

Nurse.org: Top 15 Free Online Continuing Education Units for Nurses

Nurse.com: Unlimited Nursing Continuing Education

Clinical Care Options


Physicians’ Education Resource

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