1. Palatnik, AnneMarie MSN, RN, APN-BC

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We all have little things that annoy us: socks on the floor or dirty dishes left in the sink. One of my pet peeves is nurses who use the term CEUs when they mean continuing nursing education.

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One CEU, or continuing education unit, is defined as 10 contact hours of participation in an organized continuing education experience. So if I needed 30 CEUs to renew my state nursing license, I'd need 300 hours of education. If I needed 75 CEUs to renew my board certification, I'd need 750 hours of education in 5 years. So using the right term is important.


The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) accreditation program refers to continuing nursing education as CNE, contact hours, or CE. One contact hour is 60 minutes of organized learning. According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), "Continuing nursing education is systematic professional learning experiences designed to augment the knowledge, skill, and attitudes of nurses and therefore enrich the nurses' contributions to quality healthcare and their pursuit of professional career goals."


So where can you find quality CE? Turn to our new Tech Talk department, where Karen Innocent describes how to find quality CE online. Here are some other things you should think about when looking for and attending CE programs:


* Is the content meaningful and purposeful to you? Look beyond gaining knowledge just for knowledge's sake. Really think about how any particular program will affect your competence and how the program will affect your patients' outcomes. Think about how you're going to change your practice based on the program. This is exactly why it's essential to attend only quality CE programs.


* Is the program fair and balanced? All speakers and program planning members are required to disclose any potential conflict of interest. That means they must disclose any financial relationships that they or their spouse or partner have with any entity that has a commercial interest in the content. According to the ANCC, financial relationships include receiving any salary, royalty, consulting fees, honoraria, grant funding, or stock.



Next, make sure that the program itself is fair and balanced. You should never see any commercial branding on slides, and discussions shouldn't be limited to one particular product. Pharmaceutical agents and products should be discussed using their generic, not trade, names.


* Are you prepared for a potential audit for your license or certification renewals? Just keeping your CE certificate isn't enough because at larger conferences, certificates may only list session numbers and hours. If that's the case, keep the conference program book, which includes session numbers, names, descriptions, and learning objectives. If you claim the credit, make sure that you have all of the documentation for the credit. Don't count on not being audited-it's happened to me. Although completing the audit paperwork is time-consuming, it's much easier if you have all of the necessary documentation in your CE file.



Take your CE learning opportunities seriously-you're not just racking up contact hours, you're gathering knowledge with meaning and purpose that can improve your nursing practice.


Until the next time: be healthy, be happy, and be great advocates for your patients.


AnneMarie Palatnik, MSN, RN, APN-BC

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Director of Clinical Learning Center for Learning Virtua Health Mount Laurel, N.J.




Accrediting Excellence in Continuing Nursing Education: Application Manual Accreditation Program, ANCC, 2009.


Scope and Standards of Practice for Nursing Professional Development, ANA, 2000.