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What’s in a Name? Nursing CE, CEU, Credits, and Contact Hour

What is a Nursing CE?

CE stands for Continuing Education. Nursing CE refers to courses specifically for nursing professionals to broaden skills, increase knowledge, and fulfill state requirements for license renewal.

What’s the difference between a CE and CEU?

A CE (Continuing Education) is a learning activity that a licensed nurse must complete to stay current, increase their knowledge, and enhance their skills. The CE represents the number of contact hours associated with a learning activity. CEs can be obtained from degree programs, individual classes, online courses, and seminars. A CEU (Continuing Education Unit) is usually provided by a college or university and represents the time spent in an educational course or activity.

How many hours does 1 CEU and 1 CE equal?

One CEU is equal to 10 hours of educational instruction, and one CE is equal to a minimum of 50 minutes of continuous learning.

How many CE’s do I need?

The number of required CEs varies by state, and each State Board of Nursing has designated the specific number of CEs needed for nurses to renew their state nursing license. On the Home page at fastceforless.com click on your state and review the State Board of Nursing requirements to renew your license or call the State Board of Nursing phone number listed.

How soon can I obtain my certificate of completion?

Certificates of completion can be printed, emailed, or downloaded immediately. Your account, at fastceforless.com will save all your certificates. It is critical that you provide accurate information, including your name, license number, and the state in which you are licensed, as this information will be on the certificate of completion. Fast CE For Less is not liable for any errors or inaccuracies in submissions.

You can earn a certificate of completion for any of our continuing education courses by simply filling out a brief evaluation form. No test is required. For some courses, some state nursing boards do require nurses to complete a test. Make certain you are aware of your state’s requirements.

What are Credits?

Credits are the number of hours needed to complete a college degree, and units are awarded for participation in a continuing education program. The terms “credits” and “units” are sometimes used interchangeably, which creates confusion.

The completion of “credits” is applied to courses taken at a college or university.

Remember when you were in school and looking at all the courses you had to take to earn the necessary credits to pass? How many credits did you need to earn your nursing degree? Each State Board of Nursing Department has its own set of specific courses that must be taken and the required number of credits that must be earned to be recognized by the State Board of Nursing prior to being approved as a nurse graduate and having met the minimum requirements to take the State Board of Nursing National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX Exam). All graduates from a nursing program must successfully pass the state’s nursing board exam. It is encumbered upon the nurse in some states to continue to engage in active learning after licensure. There are a few states nursing boards that do not require continuing education to renew a nursing license. It is the nurse’s responsibility to know their state requirements for license renewal. You can find your Nursing Board State requirements by choosing your state from the dropdown at the top of this page.

Nursing continuing education units (CEU) are earned units when a nurse completes a course of study where the credit, the “UNIT” is applied towards a certificate or towards professional development. One CEU is obtained after completion of 10 hours of contact study, under a qualified instructor, or through independent study. 

Nursing CEUs should be designed to enhance the knowledge and skills of an individual who is currently active or those who seek to refresh their knowledge in areas that they are interested in working, such as going from Med/Surg to Pediatrics.

So, What is a contact Hour?

Continuing education is the process of professional development of an individual within their chosen occupation. The continuing education activity can include online courses, seminars, presentations, and workshops. The activity is measured in terms of continuing education credit (CEU) or contact hour (CH). Both “differ in the length of time involved in the learning activity and the accrediting organization.” classroom.synony.com

A “contact hour” is used in the language of some nursing boards and accrediting agencies. Some accrediting agencies, such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s commission on Accreditation (ANCC) use the term “contact hour” when evaluating compliance to the language for accreditation. One contact hour is defined as 60 minutes involved in an organized didactic or clinical learning activity. Examples of learning activities may include study groups, seminars, online programs, conferences, and workshops. 

Mathematics versus Confusion

It’s no wonder that there are so many articles written on what is the difference between nursing continuing education (CE), continuing education units (CEU), and contact hour (CH) because the terms are often used, yet they are not interchangeable. There are specifics to how a course is rated based on the time spent in the learning activity and the learning environment. Professional development is measured in terms of continuing education (CE) activity and the amount of time can be measured in continuing education units (CEU). 

Keep it Simple

Example: 1 CE = a minimum of 50 minutes of educational instruction, 1 CEU = 10 contact hours of educational instruction, 1 CH = 50-60 minutes of clock time spent on a board approved learning activity.

Your Responsibility

Continuing education courses must be taken through an approved continuing education provider, such as Fast CE For Less, that is recognized by a State Nursing Board. You can choose your state from the dropdown at the top of this page to review your Nursing State Board requirements.

Once a nurse graduate passes the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and obtains a nursing license, the license will be active for two years-four years, depending on the licensing state. Some Nursing Boards require that the nurse’s license be renewed prior to the nurse’s birthday, and other Nursing Boards have designated periods for all nurses to renew their license.

If a nurse is licensed in multiple states, each nursing license must be renewed per the expiration date on the issued license. It is the responsibility of each nurse to know the State Nursing Board’s license renewal requirements to maintain an active license.

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