Guide to Nurse Practitioner Continuing Education Resources (2021) – Contact Hours & Units
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Knowledge within medicine is constantly evolving. An NP’s responsibility is to provide the best care possible to their patients—and it is essential that they update their knowledge of treatment options, diseases, medical technology, professional service habits, and pharmaceuticals.
While much of an NP’s continuing education happens in a way that is hands-on, practical, and in response to what they encounter as they practice, maintaining licensure and professional certification requires practicing NPs to adequately complete formal continuing education as well.
In the language of continuing education (CE), there are two distinctive units of measure: the continuing education hour or contact hour (CH) and the continuing education unit (CEU). While defined differently by each state and NP certifying body, a CH Is a measure of consecutive time in which an NP is engaged in learning. For example, the state of Massachusetts considers 50 minutes of didactic instruction or 100 minutes of clinical instruction equal to one CH.
While most states and certifying bodies measure CE in contact hours, some measure in CEUs. In those cases, an NP will combine contact hours to create units. For example, in Massachusetts, 10 CH equals one CEU. Because some states use the language of “units” and “hours” interchangeably, it is essential that every NP does their due diligence to clearly understand the requirement for their state of practice.
Each state board of nursing requires a unique number of CEs per year for license renewal. For example, in North Carolina, NPs need 50 CH per year to renew their license, while in Mississippi, the requirement is 40 CEU hours every two years.
States may also have specifically required subject matter for some portion of CEs, like in Illinois, where 20 of 80 CH must be in pharmacotherapeutics. Certifying organizations also have a specific CE requirement for renewing licenses after the initial certification term ends. NPs who are certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) must complete an additional 100 CH over five years and those certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) must complete 75.
To understand the specific nuances of continuing education for licensure or certification renewal, NPs can communicate directly with the nursing board in their state of practice, or with the organization where they have obtained professional certification as an NP.
Keep reading to learn more about resources that offer the CE opportunities NPs need to renew state licenses, maintain professional certifications, and to continue to provide effective care to patients.
General NP Continuing Education (CE) Resources
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
The AANP CE Center offers a comprehensive CE resource to NPs who are members of AANP. The benefit of these courses is that they are universally accepted by all state boards, regulatory bodies, and the American Dietetic Association.
In addition, members of AANP can use the organization’s online portfolio software to track CEs completed through AANP and to upload certificates from CEs completed outside of AANP’s offerings as well.
AANP also offers live events and conferences which can help an NP attain their required CE thresholds. Each webinar, live event, or conference clearly states the number of CE hours, and how much of those hours may be applied toward pharmacology.
n addition to providing in-house resources, AANP accredits CE experiences and providers and maintains an active list of CE opportunities that bear this stamp of approval. NPs on the hunt for CE can find live, online, and journal-based CE opportunities all deemed to be high-quality by AANP.
American Nurses Association (ANA)
The American Nurses Association offers online courses, bundles, and webinars that provide a range of CE opportunities for NPs who wish to renew their licenses and/or certifications. Topics in the ANA offerings include pharmacology, nursing informatics, creativity in nursing, nurse leadership, mindfulness, practice-specific topics, and more.
Advanced Practice Education Associates (APEA)
APEA is an AANP approved provider of NP CEs. APEA’s CE Library has a range of free and paid offerings for NPs in the form of video, audio, articles, reference tools, clinical briefs, and more. APEA offers individualized topics where NPs can choose specific CE topics (e.g., Acute Bacterial Prostatitis) useful to their practice.
APEA also offers bundles that can offer multiple CE hours in one package (e.g., Clinical Briefs Bundle). In addition to asynchronous learning, APEA offers live CE events as well.
Barkley & Associates (B&A)
Approved by AANP and the State of California as a CE provider, Barkley & Associates is the self-proclaimed best provider for nurse practitioner continuing education. B&A offers continuing education opportunities for acute care NPs, FNPs, adult primary care NPs, pediatric NPs, psychiatric mental health NPs, emergency NPs, and women’s health NPs. There are also CEs for NPs who prescribe controlled substances in all specialties and 45-hour advanced pharmacology courses as well.
In addition to the individualized topics of study, B&A provides comprehensive courses of study for each NP speciality. While these are mostly for those looking for certification or renewal of certifications through examination, each of these courses of study does qualify students to receive a large number of CEs, including CEs in pharmacology.
Fitzgerald Health Education Associates (FHEA) Continuing Education
FHEA is accredited by AANP to provide NP continuing education and is another organization specifically dedicated to education for nurse practitioners.
FHEA offers individualized CE in online, CD-based, and livestream formats to NPs in all specialties. FHEA’s clinical and career courses are topic-specific and include CE opportunities for NPs to learn about things like ADD and sleep medications, allergic urticaria diagnosis and management, chest pain evaluation, and fatty liver disease assessment and management. FHEA also bundles topics into packages by specialty or topic to provide more CEs at lower prices.
NetCE Continuing Education
NetCE is accredited by ANCC to provide continuing education. In addition to maintaining an active understanding of the continuing education requirement in each state, NetCE also provides comprehensive CE opportunities organized by state, territory, and outside of the U.S.
NetCe offers courses in alternative medicine, community health, ethics, and human rights, geriatrics, infection control, internal medicine, management, men’s health, pediatrics, pharmacology, mental health, and women’s health. Much course content, including self-assessments, is available online for free. In order to earn CEs, NPs can choose to pay for the course, which, in addition to unlocking the CE exam, opens up additional course materials like .pdf and ebook downloads of course materials.
Medscape is accredited by ANCC to provide continuing education and offers an activity tracker to document continuing education activities.
Organized by specialty, Medscape offers a wide range of CE opportunities for all medical professionals. Although all topics offered by Medscape may hold interest for NPs seeking CE, Medscape does offer a wide range of CE and education related to NP roles and specialties such as the business of medicine, emergency medicine, family medicine, hospital medicine, infectious disease, internal medicine, women’s health, pediatrics, and more.
Nurse Practitioner Associates for Continuing Education (NPACE)
NPACE is an ANCC accredited CE provider that offers conferences and online courses designed mostly for primary care NPs. Offered through the myCME continuing education portal, NPACE offers NPs coursework in pharmacology, practice management, concerns for primary care practitioners, and more.
NPACE also offers free online CE for topics in depression, influenza, and diabetes. Although the future of NPACE’s conferences is uncertain due to the coronavirus pandemic, historically, NPACE has also offered NP conferences specifically focused on providing high quality, timely, and relevant learning that also provide CEs.
Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation (NPHF)
Accredited by ANCC, NPHF provides live and online CE programs specifically for NPs. NPHF offers topics in pain management, obesity management, smoking cessation, and more. NPHF also has unique offerings like arts-centered approaches to cultural competence and has partnerships with education in the dermatology world as well.
PRIME is accredited by both AANP and ANCC to provide continuing education and embraces patient engagement in healthcare delivery. PRIME’s CE offerings for NPs cover a broad range of topics that include infectious disease, chronic disease management, practice management, patient education, and care coordination. Most of PRIME’s webinars, virtual symposiums, print resources, online sessions, and virtual meetings are free of charge.
NP Continuing Education (CE) By Specialty or Population Focus
Although each of the organizations listed above offers CE coursework related to all NP population foci, there are some organizations that specialize in creating and curating CEs specifically in alignment with the population an NP works with most closely. The following are examples of organizations offering CEs in this manner.
Adult/Gerontology NPs – Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA)
GAPNA provides two major ways for NPs focused on adults and older adults to gain continuing education: an annual conference and online courses.
Registration for the conference, which is discounted for members of GAPNA, allows NPs to choose different tiers of CE attainment at different price points. Topics in the 2020 conference include telemedicine for older adults, the NP role in elder abuse, end-of-life discussions, and hospitalist services.
GAPNA also provides CEs through online education covering cardiovascular health, dementia, general clinical concerns, pain management, pharmacology, professional considerations, psychosocial issues, and research.
Neonatal CEs – National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN)
NANN offers CEs to nurses who are engaged in the work of neonatology and offers a few toolkits, modules, guidelines, webinars, and papers specifically for advanced practice nurses who are practicing neonatologists. Members of NANN get deep discounts on CE resources and receive some resources for free as a result of membership. NANN also offers an annual conference that has opportunities to earn CEs and features an APRN summit specifically for neonatal NPs.
Family CEs – Pri-Med
Pri-Med is a primary-care focused educational organization accredited by the AANP to provide NP continuing education. Pri-Med offers online education, medical conferences, and CME/CE primary care podcasts. Pri-Med online education provides CEs in topics such as allergies, diabetes, healthy lifestyle, infectious diseases, LGBTQ health, pain management, practice management, screening and prevention, and more.
Pri-Med’s medical conferences are designed to bring in-person and local perspectives to practicing primary care clinicians. The Pri-Med podcast also offers bite-sized CH learning opportunities.
Pediatric CEs – National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP)
For NPs who are pediatric-focused, NAPNAP offers a wide range of evidence-based and expert developed CE specifically centered around infants, children, and adolescents. NAPNAP’s CE engine is called PedsCE and those who are members of NAPNAP can receive free or discounted CE.
PedsCE offers contact hours in primary care, acute care, pharmacology, mental health, and professional issues. In addition to more traditional CE coursework, NAPNAP has a conversation series called “Teampeds Talks” which are a series of recorded conversations available as podcasts that qualify NPs for CE contact hours.
Psychiatric/Mental Health CEs – American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA)
For NPs whose population foci centers around psychiatric and mental health, the APNA offers CEs through conferences, an eLearning Center, live training, and free CEs.
The APNA conference opens NPs to more than 20 CHs and a wealth of opportunities via recordings. The APNA eLearning Center has more than 300 resources for CEs provided as courses, eBooks, podcast recordings, and webinars. The live sessions are a blend of online and in-person group trainings. APNA also provides free CEs, some of which are free to everyone, and some of which are free only the APNA members.
Women’s Health CEs – Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health (NPWH)
NPWH specializes in supporting NPs who specialize in women’s health (WHNP) by offering CEs in the form of courses and live events.
NPWH’s e-learning portal offers WHNPs training in evaluation, assessment, destigmatization, optimization, equity, practice considerations, sexual health, and more. CEs are available to any WHNPs, but members of NPWH get discounted pricing. NPWH also holds an annual conference that gives participants access to more than 40 hours of CE content.
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