The Importance of Continuing Education for Healthcare Professionals

Group of multiracial students preparing for exam and learning together at medical university. Focus is on African American female student.

Continuing education (CE) takes many forms — it can serve as profession-specific training, preparation for advancement or licensure in your field, or simply as a way to keep your brain limber by pursuing interesting subjects that have little to do with your work. In the case of nursing and other healthcare professions, CE is necessary for maintaining licensure and staying current with advances in patient care. 

What Is Continuing Education for Nurses?
Why Is Continuing Education Important in Healthcare? 
Benefits of Continuing Education for Nurses
Paying for Continuing Education
Finding Continuing Education Opportunities in Healthcare 
Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Continuing Education for Nurses?

Continuing education for nurses typically addresses the same topics that are covered in nursing school, including medications, treatments, coaching healthy habits, medical ethics, on-the-job communication, and legal issues. Staying up to date or upskilling in these areas helps healthcare professionals avoid medical malpractice suits and deliver the best possible care to their patients.

The right healthcare continuing education courses depend on an individual’s role and career goals, but a certain amount of CE is required for nurses to retain their license. Nurses are encouraged to earn at least 10 continuing education units (CEUs) every two years to stay in compliance with licensure requirements.

CE learning opportunities are available through nursing schools, online or in-person courses, workshops and seminars, professional conferences, and medical journals and other industry publications. E-learning has become increasingly popular with healthcare professionals, since it offers the flexibility of accessing course content anytime, anywhere.

Whatever CE opportunities you choose, be sure that they are offered or accredited by qualified institutions.

Why Is Continuing Education Important in Healthcare?

The number one reason nurses and other healthcare professionals should pursue continuing education is to deliver the highest-quality care to their patients. The more knowledgeable and competent a nurse can be, the higher the chance of positive patient outcomes, and the more confident a patient and their family will feel in the care they are receiving.

In addition to this crucial benefit, there are a number of other reasons why continuing education is important in healthcare:

It’s a state requirement.

Most U.S. states require that all nurses pursue CE to maintain their nursing license; even in states that don’t, individual hospitals and healthcare systems may have this requirement.

Healthcare is ever-evolving.

New research is constantly informing advances in patient care, so healthcare workers need to stay on top of evolving guidance. Nurses and other patient-facing professionals should always have a working knowledge of conditions, medications, treatments, technologies, best practices, and safety guidance to ensure their and their patients’ health.

CE supports specializations.

Shift workers are essential in almost every area of hospital medicine, so having teams of nurses that specialize in certain types of patient care is critical. Nurses who work in the labor and delivery room, oncology wing, gastroenterology division, and so on all need unique skills and knowledge that pertain to their specialization.

It’s cost-effective.

Continuing education leads to better patient outcomes, which lead to lower healthcare costs, since both patients and hospitals save on readmissions, hospital stays, medications, and liability suits. Higher competency among nurses can also decrease turnover and promote job satisfaction, since a well-educated team can support one another and feel confident in their decisions on the job.

It can lead to promotion.

Typically, advanced knowledge in any field can help professionals climb the ranks in their organizations, and healthcare is no exception. Hospital and healthcare system leaders prefer to promote nurses and other staff who have demonstrated their value and commitment to the profession by pursuing continuing education.

Staff shortages are a chronic issue in the healthcare field, especially when it comes to highly skilled essential workers. Healthcare organizations with a well-educated workforce can attract top talent and position themselves as an employer that supports continuing education for nurses.

Benefits of Continuing Education for Nurses

Besides contributing to better overall performance, continuing education carries a range of benefits for both nurses and their employers.

Benefits for healthcare professionals:

Benefits for healthcare organizations:


Taking a medical terminology course is a great first step to equip you with the skills and knowledge you’ll need to be successful.

Why You Need a Medical Terminology Course

Paying for Continuing Education

The price of continuing education varies widely depending on who furnishes the courses or resources. Prices range from free — reading articles in medical journals, for example — to several hundred dollars.

Since CE is a requirement in the nursing profession, many hospitals and healthcare systems offer their own courses, and may even pay for or reimburse employees who pursue external CE opportunities. Employers may also subscribe to third-party services that provide online training and CE resources.

No matter which type of learning you pursue, all healthcare professionals must confirm that the material comes from or is approved by a verified institution. Healthcare certificates and courses provided by colleges and universities are typically approved by nursing associations.

If you need help paying for your healthcare continuing education, there are scholarships available from many professional nursing organizations and nonprofits.

Finding Continuing Education Opportunities in Healthcare

The best way to find approved continuing education opportunities is to check your state’s requirements for licensed nurses, or ask your direct supervisor what they would recommend. You can also find approved programs through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or any professional nursing organization such as the American Nurses Association (ANA). Many nursing schools and adult education centers offer approved CE courses as well.

In addition to earning required CEUs, you may also want to pursue a professional certificate, which will boost your skills and resume. Look for online programs that provide flexibility for your busy schedule, such as those offered by the University of San Diego School of Professional and Continuing Education. These courses are delivered by instructors with decades of practical experience in their respective fields, and the lessons can be put into practice right away.

When you do find an opportunity that aligns with your goals, don’t forget to track your hours spent studying and learning! This way, your supervisors and state licensing board will be able to verify that you’ve taken the time to sharpen, enhance, and maintain your professional skill set.


Is continuing education for nurses free?

There are free continuing education resources for nurses and other healthcare professionals, including research papers, workplace training, and many online sources. Be advised, however, that only approved CEUs can apply to nursing licensure, so be sure your state’s licensing board accepts your choice of free continuing education.

What counts as continuing education for nurses?

Continuing education for nurses is available as in-person or online training courses, workshops, conferences, seminars, certification programs, or independent study. As long as the program or resource is approved by your state’s licensing board, it can be applied to the 10 credits required every two years to retain licensure.

Can nurses earn CEUs online?

Yes, there are many opportunities to earn healthcare continuing education units online. E-learning offers an excellent opportunity for nurses and other essential workers to learn on their own time, at their own pace, wherever their work takes them.


Your health care career

Improve your medical terminology, mental health, and more with 100% online courses.