How Important Is Continuing Education for Nurses?

Content courtesy of IntelyCare.

Nurses are learners. We learn when we are assessing our patients, implementing (yet another) new procedure or policy, and when we have new treatments and medicines to administer.

Providing safe care requires not only being up to date on the latest science, but seeking out and integrating that understanding into day-to-day practice. We’re inquisitive and driven to provide the best care for our patients. We’re a trusted resource to our families and friends.

Being a trusted resource to family and friends and to strangers in their time of need and when they are in compromised situations, unfamiliar settings, and not feeling their best means that nurses need to have a combination of skills. Foundational education provides just that, a foundation of knowledge. However, schools of nursing can only provide so much.

Nursing is both an art and a science. We practice as we continue to gain experience and reflect on our successes and times when we wish we could have done more. Refining our practice means nurses need to constantly learn.

The origins of continuing education for nurses

Before we had formal schools of nursing, we had nurses, midwives, and healers gaining knowledge from decentralized oral history. Learning was passed down from experienced provider to novice provider — only women. They shared their anecdotal experience from their own practice and from working under the direction of physicians. Eventually knowledge sharing was formalized and is what we think of today when we think of nursing education.

Nursing education began in hospital-based programs, but over time and after higher demands for nurses, it moved into formalized academic settings (colleges and universities). Men and people from increasingly diverse backgrounds joined the profession and continue to do so.

Despite these developments, the profession has a long way to go to develop a workforce that is representative of the population, which is essential for the delivery of the highest quality, holistic care. The profession continues to move in the right direction toward diversity, equity, and inclusion, and nursing education must keep up and continue to promote cultural competency.

Formal academic nursing education today provides the essential foundation for basic competent practice. Nursing researchers are working to develop unique sets of nursing-focused knowledge that draws from other professions like psychology, sociology, and medicine, and brings together the best of each perspective to create a rich, essential body of knowledge for nurses.

The importance of continuing education

Patients deserve and expect to receive high-quality and evidence-based care, so nurses must stay abreast of evolving scientific and practical knowledge gains and update their practice accordingly.

Research continues to produce significant findings that can and should guide practice. It’s unacceptable to do things simply because they’ve always been done a particular way or simply because a provider ordered something.

In a recent ruling in North Carolina, nurses can now be held responsible for medical mistakes because they now have a significant and influential role in care coordination and care management. Continuing education provides an essential part of the clinical competence that supports …read more

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