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Continuing nursing education accreditation: what you need to know.

Nurses practicing in Colorado now have a wide variety of continuing nursing education (CNE) offerings to select from, particularly with the rapid growth of on-line education now on the web. Nurses also may attend professional nursing education courses and notice the continuing nursing contact hours are offered by a variety of sources: your specialty organization, state boards of nursing, directly from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, through our Colorado Nurses Association, and others you may never have heard of. What do all of these various sources of accreditation mean? How can you best determine whether or not the source you are receiving continuing education from is valid? This issue becomes increasingly important as nurses gain certification and need continuing nursing education contact hours for re-certification. This article will discuss the importance of continuing nursing education, what it means, and how to differentiate among the various types so you are assured of receiving the best education to expand and develop your practice.

Why should you participate in continuing nursing education? Years ago our State Board of Nursing eliminated the requirement to take CE courses for re-licensure. You may now think continuing education is not necessary, since it is not 'required." But remember, one of the most important characteristics of any professional is to embrace life long learning. Practice changes, and now the use of evidence in practice, means it is essential for you to keep up to date with changes based on the best available evidence. As one who grew up in nursing without the miracles of technology in practice, or the sources of knowledge now available to nurses at the click of a mouse, I am an ardent believer in life long learning! Knowledge is changing constantly. If nurses do not keep up, optimal patient care does not happen. So continuing nursing education is essential, regardless of who pays for it or how it is obtained: by on line methods, self-learning modules, or face to face programs/courses/ workshops.

How do you begin to evaluate nursing continuing education sources? The primary criteria to consider is whether or not the approving organization uses a nursing peer review process. A strong peer review process is conducted by nurses, not administrative clerical staff, and it means the course meets nursing standards for that particular offering. Translated, this process means that a nurse peer reviewer has looked at the content outline, the application, has evaluated whether the content meets the course objectives, can be taught in the time frame outlined, is relevant to nurses as the audience, and will be fully evaluated for program improvement. This process is important to assure you are receiving value for your educational investment. If you are applying for approval for a continuing education program, you should ask who does the evaluation of your program. Is it office staff or a professional registered nurse? Does a board meet and vote on this approval, to ensure quality control?

The peer review process also means the program has been reviewed for any potential conflict of interest. For example, if a speaker has direct ties to a drug company, and is talking about a particular drug the company is promoting, this would be considered a conflict of interest. This issue of conflict of interest is so important it is has now reached congress; two bills have been submitted to control this influence. Nurses may attend a continuing education offering where the speaker promotes a product he/she is also selling during breaks. Nursing peer review ensures there is disclosure to participants about potential conflicts of interest.

A strong and reliable approval CE approver entity means that there is an annual report generated demonstrating oversight and accountability for the approved programs. There should not be 'blanket approval' for one program as a 'place holder' for two years worth of additional programs at a bargain basement fee. These types of approval organizations have now captured the attention of the federal government. A governmental agency will shortly be assigned to closely examine those organizations who offer such low fees for years of unlimited programs, since this means oversight of program quality is lax.

Professional nursing specialty organizations usually have high standards, since their reputation is at stake and they often provide their certification within the organization. You can count on courses accredited directly by the Americans Nurses Association's Credentialing Center (ANCC). A source close to you here in Colorado is our very own Colorado Nurses Association! As an approved provider by the ANCC, authorized to accredit programs for nurses in our state, our CE Advisory Board spends each month reviewing applications for continuing nursing education approval. We are proud of our volunteer efforts to uphold the ANCC standards. You can count on a team that includes nurses like Deb Haven RN BSN, CEN, Denver Health Medical Center, Missy Jensen RN MS, Banner Health, Paula Stearns, RN MS, past executive director of C.N.A. as well as Fran Ricker, RN, MSN, CGRN, our current Executive Director. You can be assured courses approved to provide continuing nursing education by the Colorado Nurses Association, which is approved by the ANCC, represents consistent high quality with rigorous peer review. So before you decide who should approve your nursing continuing education courses, carefully examine what it means to purchase a bargain, and instead support your state nursing association with pride and confidence. As a consumer of nursing continuing education, examine who is providing your continuing nursing education and ask questions to be sure it meets the quality you should expect for excellence in life long learning.

Mary Krugman, PhD, RN, FAAN

Chair, Continuing Education Advisory Board

Colorado Nurses Association
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Author:Krugman, Mary
Publication:Colorado Nurse
Geographic Code:1U8CO
Date:Jun 1, 2008
Words:940
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