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Continuing Education for Nurses

Submitted by Admin on October 1, 2009, 9:10 am
Since the days of Florence Nightingale, nursing has been considered a profession of lifelong learning. Advancements in medical technology, shifts in patient interface conventions, and the development of new specialties make it impossible for a dedicated nurse to become complaisant. In addition, nurses who want to significantly advance their careers must not only keep up with current research in their fields, but also be able to analyze and internalize new information to improve their skills on the job.

“The ability to critique studies is…a fundamental skill for undergraduate nurses to master in preparation for professional practice as registered nurses,” expert John Daly points out in his book Professional Nursing: Concepts, Issues, and Challenges. “Current registered nurses also need these skills….In fact, it is an ability that relates to lifelong learning since it is an area where we can always learn and improve our skills.”

Then again, does lifelong learning really mean that nurses need to attend classes or pursue additional certification, on top of learning from daily experience and independent research?

The answer is a resounding yes!

Lifelong learning for successful nurses who want to widen their career prospects must always include formal education at some level. One job posting for a Behavioral Health Care Manager position in Denver, Colorado asserts, “Inability or unwillingness to maintain professional continuing education and engage in professional development courses may result in either re-assignment or termination. Continuing professional development and maintenance of required licenses is a requirement for continued employment.”

This kind of clause is common in job advertisements, and working nurses know that they must be prepared to seek additional licensure and certification on a regular basis, not to mention advanced nursing degrees. Experience alone does not provide the skills needed to face the challenges of today’s healthcare environment, and it certainly doesn’t offer such abundant opportunities for professional development.

Lifelong learning, then, has always been a key element of the nursing profession and continues to be important today. However, one major occurrence over the past few decades has made lifelong learning easier, more affordable, and more valuable than ever before. That occurrence is the development of high quality online nursing programs.

As recently as 10 or 15 years ago, nurses who wanted to continue their education often ran into the double hurdles of time and space. Working nurses had to coordinate their work and class schedule, which often meant delaying required courses, taking courses out of order, or taking a pay cut in order to have more free time. Nurses who practiced in areas with no educational institutions nearby had to relocate or settle for frustrating compromises like these, suggested by the Journal of the Society of Pediatric Nurses in 1997: “Talk with nursing colleagues who also may be considering further education about carpooling if longer distance travel is involved. If 12 or more students are interested in a particular course, try petitioning a college to offer ‘on-site’ courses.”

Carpooling and petitioning? What a hassle! Thank goodness for the explosion of the internet in leaps and bounds over the past decade. The accessibility and excellent value of online degree programs at accredited institutions has made lifelong learning a reality for thousands of nurses across the nation.

One of these nurses is 42-year old Angeline, who put off getting her MSN degree for ten years…not because she didn’t want to, but because the rural area in which she practiced didn’t have any educational institutions closer than a two hour drive. “I would have done this years ago,” Angeline says. “I just couldn’t bear the idea of leaving my patients to go back to school. Now I’m doing it online, it’s hard work for sure but so rewarding! The best part is I can fulfill the clinical requirements right here in my facility.”

Angeline and other nurses who would previously have had to make enormous sacrifices to continue their nursing education are benefiting from the development of online nursing programs…and so are their patients. Studies have shown that the more education a nurse has, the faster their patients tend to recover and the more likely they are to enjoy long-term improvements in health. Online nursing programs make it easier, more convenient and more cost-effective for all nurses to pursue further education and for their patients to reap the benefits. Lifelong learning for nurses has truly entered a new era…and there’s no looking back!

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