Nursing is one of those professions where it is vital to keep up some form of continuing education in order to renew your license within the timeframe required in your state. However, the continuing education requirements vary from state to state and so it is imperative that you keep up with legislation in whatever state you happen to be licensed in. In addition to state legislated continuing ed requirements, some nurses choose to continue their education all the way up to obtaining a DNP degree. With this in mind, let’s look at some of the reasons for voluntary continuing education in nursing.
1. Higher Pay Grade
In most states, nurses make a much higher salary than minimum wage, even in entry level positions. Even so, beyond your state’s minimum wage, salaries vary based on the employer. Hospitals will offer a different pay grade than private practices. Although pay grades aren’t static, the one constant is that salaries increase with higher levels of education.
Another chief motivator for continuing education up through more advanced degrees is a goal to achieve a certain level of autonomy. This is why so many nurses continue advancing their degrees through graduate school until they achieve their DNP degree. In some states a family nurse practitioner can open up a private practice without the oversight of a doctor.
As an example, FNP programs in Texas like those offered within the Baylor University online DNP FNP track enable the graduate to work autonomously in that state. In other words, they will not need doctor oversight if practicing in Texas. However, if the state they intend to practice in doesn’t grant full autonomy, they will need doctor supervision within that state’s nurse licensing rules.
3. Greater Employment Options
Sometimes a nurse is not content with the employer they are currently working for but there are no jobs with other employers available for nurses with their level of education. Perhaps one hospital hires registered nurses with only an ASN degree while the hospital in another part of town requires a BSN. Maybe the second hospital has better benefits and perks or maybe the doctors they would like to work under are on staff there. Getting a higher degree can open more doors.
Sometimes specializations and certifications, as discussed below, will provide greater employment opportunities as well. Whether you are seeking to advance in your career or are interested in finding an employer you’d rather work for, continuing education courses can give you the opening you need.
Some nurses aren’t sure what specialization they would like best before graduation, so it takes time working in the field to realize they prefer pediatrics or gerontology or even surgery. To obtain certification within a specialization, further education is almost always required. This is apart from the continuing ed classes nurses are required to take.
Perhaps the classes preparing a nurse for a particular specialization can be counted toward continuing ed, but if not, they can still lead to working in the field that interests them most. In other words, nurses aren’t required to specialize in an area of interest to them, but specialization does improve employment opportunities.
5. Certification within a Specialization
Then there are duties even nurses within a specialized field of nursing will need continuing ed for. One such procedure would be intubation in many states. While some states might allow RNs without ACLS certification in intubation to perform that procedure, others may require specialized training and certification.
Here again, the more specialized your license, the more job options are available to you. These certifications may not instantly lead to a higher salary, but they will almost always open the door to job options not available previously.
6. Becoming Familiar with Advanced Techniques
Those nurses who are serious about the work they do are also most likely to want to keep up with advanced techniques in healthcare. Many times, these advances are in the realm of technology and by its very nature would require training and/or formal education to learn new techniques. A good example of this would be how patient records are kept. Since the beginning of nursing, patient records were handwritten and kept in a hard copy file.
These often became bulky and if the person entering the information had poor penmanship, their entries were often misread or misinterpreted. With the dawn of EMRs and EHRs, patient records are entered into a computer and can be accessed at any time if someone has permission to view those charts. In fact, advanced techniques can be found in everything from wound care to birthing and this is one of the most important reasons for continuing ed.
7. Personal Growth
Within every profession, there are reasons for advancing through continuing education based on their personality type. Some people thrive on advancing within their careers and take great pride in gaining knowledge and experience. This personality type will often continue advancing their education for the sheer joy of doing so.
Interestingly, if you try to research personality types, you will find everything from three main personality types to Carl Jung’s 8 personality types. Even so, no matter which theory you subscribe to, there will always be those who work toward personal growth because it is fulfilling to them.
Your Reasons Aren’t Important
In the end, your reasons for continuing education within the field of nursing aren’t really as important as actually advancing in knowledge and experience. In healthcare, you are dealing with human life and there is nothing more important than being an expert in the care you give. Your patient’s life may depend on your expertise.
Whether you are simply satisfied with meeting state continuing ed requirements to renew your license as it comes due or are working toward advancing your career, chooses your courses carefully. Keep in mind that while you may not want to change jobs now, you never know what tomorrow may bring.
With all that said, what are your reasons for continuing your education in nursing?